The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Court shock to power minister

Ranchi, Dec. 9: Efforts by energy minister Lalchand Mahto to reconstitute the Jharkhand State Electricity Board and replace chairman Rajiv Ranjan suffered a setback after the Supreme Court today ordered that status quo be maintained till the disposal of the special leave petition and rejected an appeal for early hearing in the matter.

Last year, Jharkhand High Court had ordered that Ranjan and member (technical) S.N. Akhauri be removed, on a petition filed by Arbind Rai challenging the appointment of the chairman and alleging that persons of doubtful integrity had been nominated to the apex board. The high court had directed the state government to constitute a new board within six months.

Following the high courtís directives, the state had filed a review petition before it, praying for a complete review of its decision. Ranjan, however, filed a special leave petition before the Supreme Court challenging the high court verdict and pointing out that ó the high court orders notwithstanding ó he was not given an opportunity to be heard.

On November 19, 2001, a two-member bench of the Supreme Court Chief Justice B.N. Kirpal and Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, accepted the electricity board chairmanís special leave petition for further hearing and ordered that status quo be maintained.

While hearing the review petition later, the high court upheld the appointment of the member (technical), though it refused to comment on the appointment of the chairman on the ground that a petition was pending before the Supreme Court. The high court, however, ordered Ranjan to make a reference to it, if he so desired.

Hearing Raiís application today, the Supreme Court rejected his prayer for early hearing and review of its status quo order. The apex court also directed that status quo be maintained regarding Ranjanís appointment as the chairman of the electricity board.

Following the Supreme Courtís order of status quo, the energy minister proposed to chief minister Babulal Marandi that the electricity board be reconstituted immediately. Mahto said he had suggested an urgent reorganisation, including replacing the present chairman with a more experienced person, but refused to divulge the names suggested by him.

The energy minister, however, conceded that he had departed from his earlier stance of excluding retired persons from being nominated to the electricity board by suggesting a mixture of retired and serving technocrats and administrators to draw on experience and expertise to pull the board out of the mess it was in. The file has been sent to the chief minister through the chief secretary, he said.

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