Energy Dialogue with RSN
The Making of Electricity Act, 2003
Keywords: Electricity, Bill, Power, Judicial, Review, Government
The Electricity Bill, 2001 after being re-drafted seven times, was introduced in the Lok Sabha on August 30th, 2001. Due to inconclusive debate, the matter was referred to the standing committee [1] on energy for detailed analysis. The standing committee presented its report on December 19th, 2002. Most of the recommendations of the standing committee were accepted by the government and incorporated in the Bill.

The reformed Electricity Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on April 9th, 2003. In Rajya Sabha, certain anomalies in the Bill were brought out by the members. But looking into the urgency of reforming the Power sector and the assurance of the government that amendments would be brought out in the enactment in the next session of the parliament, the Rajya Sabha also passed the Bill on May 5th, 2003. The Bill received the assent of the President of India on May 26th, 2003. Thereafter, the Electricity Act, 2003 was notified in the official gazette of India on June 2nd, 2003. The Electricity Act, 2003 (except Section 121) was enforced by the Union government on June 10, 2003.

In the original Act, the Powers of Chair-Person of Appellate Tribunal under Section 121 provided for the exercise of the general Power of superintendence and control over the state commissions which effectively includes the Power of appointment and transfer of Chair-Person and member of independent regulatory [2] commission.

In the case of Power Trading Corporation India Ltd. v Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (2010), the Supreme Court of India held that Section 121 of the 2003 Act does not confer Power of Judicial review on the Appellate Tribunal. The words “orders”, “instructions” or “directions” in Section 121 cannot be taken as the Power of Judicial review conferred upon the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity. In this judgment, the English authorities were not analyzed as we find from those authorities that in certain cases in England the Power of Judicial review is “expressly” conferred upon the Tribunals constituted under the Act. Thereby, it was ruled that APTEL does not have Powers of Judicial review both under Section 111 as well as under section 121.

Keeping in view, representations from the State Governments and cooperative federalism, the same was amended by the First Amendment of Electricity Act and was modified as follows:

“The Appellate Tribunal” may, after hearing the appropriate commission (read State Electricity Regulatory Commissions or Joint Electricity Regulatory Commission) or other interested parties, if any, from time to time, issue such orders, instructions or directions as it may deem fit, to any appropriate commission for its performance of its statutory functions under this Act.

After bringing this amendment, Section 121 was also enforced.

The Electricity Act, 2003 is a watershed for Power sector reforms in India. This progressive legislation has fundamentally reformed the Electricity system and institutions in India.