Free electricity scheme in Delhi to end? LG gives Kejriwal govt 15 days to take decision

Free electricity scheme in Delhi: Lieutenant Governor of Delhi V K Saxena has asked Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar to direct the power department to place the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission’s (DERC) advisory on the restriction of power subsidy in the city before the council of ministers. He also added to take a decision on the matter within 15 days.

The Lt Governor made the instruction on the basis of a DERC’s statutory advisory to the Delhi government to consider “restricting” electricity subsidy to the “poor and needy consumers.” However, the advisory was put in abeyance.

Reacting to the directive, the Delhi government said the LG has once again violated the Constitution and the Supreme Court directives by “illegally” extending his remit.

The report which forms the base of LG’s directive was prepared by Kumar while looking into the complaint of power discoms’ unpaid dues to generation companies and was submitted to the LG and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in December 2022, officials said.

The chief secretary in his report said the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) had advised the Delhi government in October 2020 to extend the power subsidy to only consumers with a sanctioned load of either up to 3KW or up to 5KW, as it will cover almost 95 per cent of the total domestic consumers and save the government up to Rs 316 crore.

The DERC had suggested that the consumers having fixed load above 5KW were not strictly “poor” and should not be extended the benefit of subsidy.

When the advice was placed by the power department before the minister-concerned in November 2020, he directed to move it before the Cabinet the next year.

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According to the chief secretary’s report, the power department placed a note before the then power minister, Satyendra Jain, on April 13, 2021 again, but it was rejected in favour of the scheme extant.

The minister, according to the report, said the power subsidy as decided by the cabinet — 100 per cent waiver on monthly consumption of up to 200 units and 50 per cent discount on consuming 201 to 400 units — will continue.

Since the matter involved financial implications to the tune of between Rs 200 crore to Rs 316 crore annually, the competent authority to decide this matter was the Cabinet, the chief secretary said in his report.

As the matter came to the light, the power department started preparing the proposal for the Cabinet again to keep consumers of sanctioned load of more than 3 KW out of the subsidy net.

The chief secretary’s report pointed out that the power department not only failed to lay the statutory advice of the DERC for consideration of the LG but it was not even placed before the Cabinet for its consideration.

The approval of the finance department was also not taken before going ahead with the existing subsidy scheme, according to the report.

The chief secretary also referred the matter to the law department, which agreed that the matter should have been placed before the Cabinet and the LG, and that there was material departure from the provisions of the Rules.

It added that the chief secretary should invoke rule 57 of the transaction of business rules (ToBR), and personally bring it to the notice of the minister-in-charge, chief minister, and the LG.

On the basis of the report, the LG has also asked the chief secretary to apprise the chief minister about the alleged lapses of the transaction of business rules by the then power minister and request him to instruct his cabinet members to scrupulously follow its provisions.

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“The existing policy for granting electricity subsidy was decided by the council of ministers – the minister is not competent to take a decision in a matter which falls within the purview of the council of ministers as per ToBR,” the LG in his note said.

“The chief minister may be apprised about the aforesaid lapses of the ToBR by the then Hon’ble Minister (Power) and may be requested to instruct all the Ministers-in-Charge of all departments of GNCTD to scrupulously follow the provisions of Transaction of Business of GNCTD Rules,” he added.

Reacting to the development, the government said the LG by intervening in the matter was meddling illegally in its affairs.

“The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has clearly ruled that the LG has not been entrusted with any decision making powers on transferred subjects, which includes electricity. Yet he has subverted all legal principles by asking the Delhi Government to withdraw power subsidy.

“CM Arvind Kejriwal will not let that happen. The LG should stop acting like a political nominee of the BJP and let the elected government do its job,” it said in a statement.

(With PTI inputs)

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