PUCSL to consult AG, lawyers before interim tariff hike
4 months ago | By Safrah Fazal
- Chairman Ratnayake says no division among membership
The Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) stated that they will write to Attorney General (AG), President’s Counsel (PC) Sanjay Rajaratnam and to private legal experts in the upcoming days concerning the legality of an interim electricity tariff hike with retroactive effect, as approved by the Cabinet of Ministers.
Speaking to the media yesterday (24), PUCSL Chairman Janaka Ratnayake stated that the four members of the Commission arrived at a unanimous decision on Monday (23) to evaluate the proposal for an increase in electricity tariffs handed over to the PUCSL by the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) before 15 February and to consult the AG and other legal experts with regard to an interim tariff increase that is not expressly provided for in the PUCSL and Electricity Acts.
“When we get an understanding regarding an interim increase in electricity tariffs after consulting the AG and the legal experts, we will consider it. If they say that it is against the law, we will not implement it, but if they say that it is in accordance with the law, then, we will take relevant measures accordingly. But, my personal opinion is that according to the provisions of the Electricity Act, there is no possibility for the same. I will write to the AG in the next few days to seek his advice on the matter. At the same time, I will also write to private legal experts and accordingly, we will make a suitable decision with the consent of all the members.”
Speaking of the three Commission members who had previously written to Ratnayake last week conveying their approval for an interim increase in electricity tariffs with retrospective effect from 1 January and had thereafter reversed their decision requesting the Commission to consult the AG pertaining to the same, Ratnayake said: “There is no division now among the PUCSL members. It is normal to have conflicting views but we have resolved these and are carrying out our duties appropriately.”
When contacted by The Daily Morning on Monday, Commission Member Mohan Samaranayake stated that the Commission members had arrived at the said decision after “learning” about the legal mechanism of interim tariffs with a retrospective effect. “Earlier, we submitted a letter asking to consider the Cabinet decision. But on Tuesday (23), we revised our document because there is doubt regarding the legality of this. What is valid is the document that we submitted today, which has been agreed upon by all four members, including Ratnayake. In our letter, we have suggested that the Commission obtains the AG’s opinion in this regard because an interim measure is not provided for in the PUCSL Act, No. 35 of 2002, or the Electricity Act, No. 20 of 2009. So, there is a need to seek legal advice, not only about the interim tariff revision but also about the retrospective effect as these can be disputed legally. Hence, these matters have to be cleared up by the AG. We revised it after learning about the legal mechanism.”