The Appellate Tribunal for Electricity was established under the Electricity Act of 2003. After coming into existence in 2004, the APTEL began hearing appeals from July, 2005. The first Chairperson for APTEL was Justice Anil Dev Singh, a former judge of the Delhi High Court and former Chief Justice of the Rajasthan High Court..Where?.The tribunal is located in the SCOPE Complex in Lodhi Road. For the first-time visitor, not just the APTEL but the entire Complex is a maze. There are gigantic pillars around the circular dome-like structure, reminiscent of the layout of Supreme Court of India. These structures are home to a number of important offices including those of the Cement Corporation of India Ltd, Central Cottage Industries Corporation of India Ltd, Bharat Aluminium Company Ltd and so on..The APTEL is housed in “Core 4” of the complex and is situated on the seventh floor. Reaching the tribunal is fairly easy due to its close proximity to the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium metro station. There is ample parking space for cars, both inside and outside of the complex premises..Jurisdiction.Under Section 110 of the Electricity Act, the tribunal is empowered to hear appeals or original petitions (from all over India) against the orders of the:.Adjudicating officerCentral Regulatory CommissionState Regulatory CommissionJoint Commission constituted under Section 76(i) or 82/83 of the Act..The Tribunal is also conferred with original jurisdiction to hear petitions under Section 121 of the Act and issue directions to any appropriate Commission for the performance of its statutory functions..As per Section 111 (2) of the Act, any appeal from the aforesaid category of orders should be filed before the APTEL within 45 days from the date on which a copy of the order made by the adjudicating officer or the appropriate Commission is received by the aggrieved person..The statute mandates that the tribunal shall dispose of the case within a period of 180 days from the date of receipt of the appeal..There is also a provision to ensure expeditious disposal of cases..If the appeal is not disposed off within the said period of 180 days, the tribunal is bound to record its reasons in writing for not disposing of the appeal within the said period..Perhaps this explains the high disposal rate prevalent at the APTEL..Statistics.As per the data provided by APTEL, a break-up of all the cases filed in the year 2014, 2015 and 2016 is given here under:.YearAppeals u/S 111Appeals disposed of20143001722015301372016 (in January ’16)04.How?.There are two Benches functioning at APTEL, with each Bench presided over by one judicial member and one technical member. Retired Supreme Court Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai took over as Chairperson of the tribunal on December 1, 2014..Approaching the APTEL.The Appellate Tribunal for Electricity has a set of Rules to regulate the filing of petitions. Cost of filing an appeal is one Lakh rupees..Another interesting fact stipulated in the Rules is that any appeal/petition filed in APTEL should only be on green legal paper. While the annexures can be filed on the usual white legal paper, the green paper requirement sure is a unique aspect for a tribunal..From the Court.There are two sittings per day – one in the morning and the other in the afternoon, with the Bench composition changing in the afternoon. There is also a Petroleum & Natural Gas Bench that deals with those special category of cases. The regulars at APTEL tell me that this paricular Bench does not assemble everyday and on average, sits for two or three times a month..The tribunal is strict with its limitation period. In fact, the unique listing process at APTEL mandates that if there is a condonation of delay application listed alongwith the main petition, it is the delay application that gets listed in Court before the case. Once the Bench is convinced that the delay in filing has been sufficiently explained, only then do they proceed to hear the main matter on merits..On the contrary, if the counsel is unable to explain the delay in filing, then the Bench dismisses the case. This practice makes me curious and I ask one of the lawyers about the remedy in such cases of dismissal. He tells me that one has to file a review petition and hope that the Bench gives you another day to fight on. He further opines that this has only led to an increase in the filing of review petitions [which, interestingly does not reflect as part of the case statistics released by the tribunal] and multiplicity of proceedings..I see a young lawyer getting a earful in Justice Surendra Kumar’s court over the issue of inordinate delay in filing an appeal. The youngster prays for a short date and eventually, for a short passover so as to enable his senior to take over and convince the Bench. However, Justice Kumar strict as he is, dismissed the matter by passing a detailed order incorporating a number of judgments discussing the Limitation Act..The Regulars.Amit Sibal, CS Vaidyanathan, Sanjay Sen are some of the seniors who are frequently known to appear at the tribunal. Other counsel who are regularly briefed for APTEL matters are MG Ramachandran, Anand K. Ganesan and BA Ranganadhan. In fact, the Bench usually asks these lawyers to assist them in complex issues which goes on to say quite a bit about their acumen and grasp of this field of law..Lawyer speak.Pros: One lawyer tells me that the Registry is small and efficient. With only six people manning the Registry, it is a boon for lawyers who frequently appear at the tribunal for the staff recognizes them by their faces and that eases out any glitches in filing..The tribunal has sufficient infrastructure, as per the lawyers and is adept for handling the kind of cases that get filed at APTEL..The technical members are highly competent with their able assistance to the work that APTEL does. Another lawyer tells me that having members who are sound in their knowledge of technical principles is essential for a specialized body, where any average day in court sees a plethora of figures and data being floated around..It is therefore significant, she adds, that the technical facts are aligned with the laws for any kind of meaningful hearing to take place and this is where the role of a technical member assumes significant proportions..Cons- A grouse that seems to be common with the APTEL Bench as well as the Bar is the absence of assistance from a financial expert. The day that I visited the tribunal, Justice Kumar was lamenting the lack of any financial advice to the Bench in cases where the stakes are extremely high. With big power companies battling among themselves, number crunching is an essential part of dispute resolution, rued Justice Kumar. The absence of such a member sure seems to put a spanner in the works for APTEL’s adjudicatory function..As efficient as the Registry is with filing of matters, it is equally tardy when it comes to dealing with RTI applications. This reporter faced a hard time getting basic information; an application for a simple query had to be moved through multiple windows before it was even considered. While the response time was quick, the manning of the information dispensation machinery left much to be desired..A couple of young lawyers confide that it is a ‘rich’ tribunal with no playing field for a greenhorn, who may not have a bagful of cash rich power companies in his kitty. The filing of an appeal costs a lakh and procuring a certified copy would mean paying Rs 25/- for each page. This has virtually ensured that no lawyer who is looking to build a practice at APTEL has an easy run unless he has the funds to support his ambitions..Lawyers also feel that the different policy decisions enacted by different State Electricity Regulatory Commissions sometimes lead to conflicting claims by parties. The lack of supervisory role of the CERC does not help the situation either so the tribunal often sees litigants fighting over contradictory decisions by coordinate bodies..Verdict.The APTEL boasts of a high disposal rate. However, the dismissals made due to delay in filing has paved way for an increase in the number of review petitions. It would go a long way if the Bench adopts a lenient view in this aspect, especially in cases where the State’s power authorities are involved, keeping in mind that delays tend to regularly occur while processing files in government bodies..Justice Desai, however has a unique manner of dealing with delay applications. She is known to impose heavy costs on the Petitioner if they fail to convince her on the delay, but does not dismiss the case. This ensures that the statutory compliances are met, without causing prejudice to the litigants..A senior lawyer says this practice has a lot to do with Justice Desai’s Supreme Court experience and temperament which does not permit a case to be thrown away easily. He also admits that all the Benches at APTEL need to adopt this practice so as to minimize inconveniences..Absence of a financial expert also remains a big concern for a body that deals with high stake transactions on a daily basis; such transactions that are likely to have an impact on business and economics. It would only work towards the benefit of APTEL if this requirement is fulfilled, which will further enhance the confidence of all the market players in the competence of the appellate body.