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Draft Regulatory Bill may be taken up in winter session
July, 24th 2014

The government is set to revive an initiative of its predecessor to make regulators of key sectors such as power, telecommunications and railways accountable to Parliament, a move that is expected to boost private investment in infrastructure.

Planning minister Rao Inderjit Singh has asked the infrastructure division of the Planning Commission to finalise the Draft Regulatory Reform Bill, 2013 by incorporating the views of different ministries, a senior government official told ET on condition of anonymity. The minister is keen to introduce the Bill in the winter session to revive investor confidence as soon as possible, the official added.

The draft Bill, if approved, will be applicable to sectors including oil & gas, coal, internet, broadcasting & cable television, posts, airports, ports, waterways, mass rapid transit system, highways, water supply and sanitation.

In 2009, the Congress-led UPA government had mooted a law to monitor the functioning of a large number of regulatory authorities in the country. The government's aim was to ensure orderly development of infrastructure services, enable competition and protect the interest of consumers through the regulators while securing access to affordable and quality infrastructure.

However, the Bill could not see the light of day during the term of the UPA government.

Last week, admitting that the regulatory commissions in the country were accountable to neither government nor Parliament, Singh said in Parliament, "The present legal framework on regulatory reforms needs some rethinking. Regulatory commissions in different sectors follow very divergent practices and require re-examination to have a uniform framework. Our government will undertake regulatory reforms in order to make them effective and answerable."

The UPA government had set a target of $1-trillion investment in infrastructure during the 12th Five-year Plan (2012-17), half of which has to come from private players. The Regulatory Reform Bill is expected to draw private players that have been wary of investing in infrastructure development for want of transparency.

The key provisions of the draft Bill include an institutional framework for regulatory commissions, their role and functions, accountability to the legislature and interface with the markets and the people. Besides, their overall functioning would be subject to scrutiny by Parliament on a yearly basis and their decision could be challenged before the appellate authority.

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