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We express anguish with the manner in which govt sought to act, contrary to a judgment of this court: SC

The Supreme Court said in a recent order on filling vacancies in commissions that “we have to express our anguish with the manner in which the government sought to act, contrary to a judgment of this court.”

“In the present case, we have already expressed our prima facie view of a willful disobedience of the orders of this court,” a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy said.

“The passage of time also doesn’t seem to have awoken the government to the problem at hand and almost four months have passed since then. We are unable to come to the aid of the consumers because the government does not seem to be interested in coming to the aid of the consumers or making the Commission functional, which is not an unusual scenario seeing the functioning of the other tribunals and commissions, on account of lack of appointments to deal with the matter,” the order said.

“We have to express our anguish with the manner in which the government sought to act, contrary to a judgment of this court. It is the legislative function to pass the Acts and the administrative function to implement the provision of that Act. It is left to the judiciary to interpret the law. The law was interpreted by our judgment. The executive cannot be expected to act nor permitted to act in breach of the judgment of this court. This would be an invitation to anarchy! The mutual respect of the three pillars of democracy requires each of them to respect the role and functioning of the other,” the order said.

“Having expressed our anguish, we now specifically posed a question to the learned Additional Solicitor General as to when should we keep the matter, so that the government would have completed the task by then. Learned Additional Solicitor General requests the matter be kept on 20.01.2021, as according to her, the matter is pending consideration before the ACC,” the order said.

The order also said that a valiant endeavor has been made by Maninder Singh, learned senior counsel, and Nikhil Nayyar, learned senior counsel, to persuade the court to lift the interdict to the extent of permitting the judgments to be pronounced as the consumers are affected.

“Unfortunately, the government is showing no anxiety about the interests of the consumers or the Commission as it is taking its own sweet time,” the order said.

The contempt proceedings arose because according to the petitioner, the directions of this court were sought to be breached on account of appointments made to the Central Commission on January 21, 2019, and thereafter on April 7, 2020, without appointing a member from the law.

“The contempt petition was listed before us on July 27, 2020, when we expressed a view that prima facie we were satisfied that it appears to be a case of willful disobedience of the judgment of this court and directed issuance of notice. Thereafter, the matter has been heard from time to time and on August 28, 2020, we unequivocally expressed the view that the appointment of any member after our judgment could not take place without first appointing a member from the law,” the order said.

“We took care to protect the past orders by making our judgment apply prospectively. In sub-para (vi), we clearly directed that if there was no member from the law as a member of the Commission, the next vacancy arising in every state Commission shall be filled by a member of law in terms of Clause (ii) above,” the order said.

“We have shown considerable restraint in this matter. Our restraint seems to be misunderstood! The civil appeal in question dealt with the matter of appointment under the Electricity Regulatory Commission Act, 1998. Vide judgment dated April 12, 2018, we rejected the challenge to the extent that prayer had made that the Chairman of the Commission must be a man of law but simultaneously opined that ‘thus, if the Chairman of the Commission is not a man of law, there should, at least, be a member who is drawn from the legal field,” the Supreme Court order said.

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