HC seeks MERC’s reply on audio-visual recording

Nagpur : Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) to place on record affidavit giving full details about audio-video footage of past proceedings, whether it was supplied to anyone and whether any fees was charged.

A division bench consisting of Justice Pradeep Deshmukh and Justice Rohit Deo while hearing a PIL filed by a vigilant citizen Anil Wadpalliwar against the MERC’s September 4 decision to destroy audio-video recordings of the past proceedings, directed the Commission also to specify whether it would permit videography of its proceedings or public hearing by an individual on payment of charges.

The High Court also permitted the petitioner to amend the petition and join the members of MERC as party-respondent by name, since the PIL had prayed to initiate penal action against the concerned who were responsible for destruction of public records. The High Court had directed the MERC not to implement its resolution but the MERC had informed that on the very next day it implemented the decision to destroy entire audio-video record.

MERC members including chairman Anand Kulkarni, IM Bohari and Mukesh Khullar, on September 4 had unanimously passed a resolution not to record MERC hearings anymore and destroy the recordings of past hearings in due course of time. Besides, it was decided not to supply copies of such audio or video to any member of public. No reasons, whatsoever, were given for reaching this decision.

According to petitioner, the resolution is contrary to Section 78 of Conduct of Business Regulations of MERC, 2004 which states that all the documents pertaining to the hearings should be indexed and be provided to citizens on payment of a fee.

According to petitioner the resolution was draconian and against transparent functioning of power regulator. When Apex Court has favoured live streaming of proceedings to allow general public to view the court proceedings, there is no rationale in taking such anti-democratic stance, the petitioner stated while pointing out that during tariff hearings, common people and representatives of various sectors participate in the hearing and their views are duly recorded. If the commission fails to consider any logical point raised by participating member, a legal remedy can be pursued. It is precisely to deprive people from raising questionmarks over decision making process of the regulator, this decision was taken, the petitioner claimed while urging High Court to quash the impugned resolution.
Adv Shreerang Bhandarkar appeared for the petitioner. Senior Counsel Rungta represented MERC.

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