Ruling on memo: PHC overturns order for transfer of NEPRA control

Asks federal government to submit its response

Fawad Ali February 02, 2017

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Wednesday suspended a notification issued by the federal government through which administrative control of National Electric Power Regulatory Authority was being given to the water and power division.

The court directed the federal government to submit its reply.

During the hearing, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s parliamentary leader in the Senate Nauman Wazir’s counsel Shumail Ahmad Butt argued that the memorandum was issued ‘illegally’ by the cabinet division last year in December.

The counsel argued that transfer would make water and power secretary the de facto head of Nepra, compromising its regulatory independence with a single stroke of  the pen.

Butt urged the court to restrain the water and power secretary and his subordinates from asserting any control over Nepra.

The petitioner’s counsel also requested the bench to declare all other instruments, notices, orders, assessment, determinations and letters, arising from and relating to the impugned memorandum as unconstitutional and liable to be declared void ab initio.

The petition claimed that the water and power division secretary was publicly complaining that Nepra was a hurdle in smooth functioning of the ministry. It said that the water and power ministry was actually unhappy over Nepra’s consumer-friendly decisions.

It said all regulatory bodies, Nepra in particular, come under the domain of the Council of Common Interests (CCI).

In a bid to check Nepra’s independence and to place it under direct administrative control of the water and power ministry, a summary was allegedly prepared for the approval of the CCI, the petitioner claimed.

It said since the decision was not acceptable to the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government; therefore, Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak wrote a letter to Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Riaz Hussain Pirzada on December 13 expressing his concerns.

The attorney for the petitioner argued that the Sindh government’s opposition to the move was also brought to the government’s notice.

He also said that the cabinet division issued the impugned memorandum on December 19 all of a sudden and without prior approval from the CCI, which was a violation of Articles 153, 154 of the Constitution.

The counsel said that in its present scheme in the Nepra Act, 1997, there are numerous instances when the federal government represented by the water and power ministry is a direct party in the proceedings before Nepra.

He added that if placed under the administrative control of the water and power ministry, it would raise conflict of interest concerns and at the same time Nepra will act both as adjudicator and the party in the same cause.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 2nd, 2017.

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