The Delhi High Court Friday agreed to hear a PIL on the appointment of Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) chairperson, but declined to issue any stay on the process, observing that it would not be proper.
A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath, however, cautioned in the order that the appointment “shall not be finalised till further orders”.
The Delhi government had issued a notification in November last year seeking applications for the post of DERC chairperson and one member. The PIL challenged the notification in December, stating that the chairperson of the commission should be a former high court judge, since the adjudication of disputes between generating companies or transmission licensees is a “judicial function”.
The PIL, by Delhi resident Raman Suri, challenged section 84 of the Electricity Act 2003, arguing that the provision that a judge “may” be appointed should be read as mandatory. The PIL had sought an interim stay on the process of appointment, claiming that “valuable rights of the public” would be affected if the appointment was allowed to go on.
The bench took note of the arguments put forward by central government Standing Counsel Jasmeet Singh and Delhi government Additional Standing Counsel Sanjoy Ghosh, who pointed out that the government’s notification was correct under the existing provisions of the law.
The bench agreed to hear the PIL on the issue of the constitutional validity of Section 84 of the Electricity Act, which lays down the qualifications of the DERC chairperson and members. The PIL has claimed that the presence of a judicial member should be seen as mandatory in the DERC, as the commission functioned “as a tribunal” and passed adjudicatory orders.
The matter will now be taken up on February 10. The central government is yet to file its response on the PIL, while the Delhi government in its reply has said the notification had been issued under the existing provisions, which already allows for the appointment of a sitting or former judge as the chairperson if so decided by the government.