Cabinet clears coal regulator via exec order

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Pending legislation in parliament, the cabinet committee on economic affairs on Thursday decided to set up the long-awaited coal regulator through an executive order.

The regulator will be empowered to specify the principles and methodology for determining price of raw coal, washed coal and byproducts generated during washing, but will have no authority to specify a price.

This not the first time a regulator is being set up through an executive order due to delay in passage of the requisite legislation. The insurance regulator, Irda, functioned as an interim regulatory authority for a few years pending passage of the Irda bill in parliament. So did the pension regulator, PFRDA, as the controversial bill could be passed only last year after several years of wait.

Last week, coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal told parliament in response to a question that "the competent authority has decided that a non-statutory regulator will be set up through an executive order as the enactment of the legislation would take some time.”

The coal regulatory authority bill, which was introduced in Lok Sabha in December last year, has been prepared taking into account views of all stakeholders and after discussions in a group of ministers. All legal aspects have been vetted by the law ministry, Jaiswal said.

This being the last parliament session of UPA-ll, the bill is going to lapse. It will have to be reintroduced when the new Lok Sabha is constituted after the elections. Had the bill been introduced in Rajya Sabha, the same could have been taken up by Lok Sabha later this year.

The draft bill proposes a regulatory authority with a chairperson and four members. The proposed coal regulatory authority of India (Crai) will adjudicate disputes relating to grading, quality, testing, pricing, supply and sampling of coal between entities or between an entity and any other person. This will exclude cases where the arbitration is provided for in agreements between two entities. It will monitor closure of mines and approve mining plans, among other things.

It will also maintain data relating to the activities of entities and have the power to verify data supplied by them. Crai shall maintain confidentiality of the information and will not disclose it except on the grounds of public interest.

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