Digital India Initiatives

Electricity Discoms: Public Hearings And Public Participation in Decision Making


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Online Public Hearings and In person Public hearings

Public Hearings

Central Idea

  • The scale of operations of electricity distribution companies is clear from the fact that their annual revenue requirement is 20% of the Union Budget. The article discusses the importance of public participation in the decision-making process of electricity distribution companies and the role of public hearings conducted by Electricity Regulatory Commissions (ERCs) in this regard. The central ERC recently issued a public notice where it announced that hearings would resume through in-person mode.

All you need to know about Electricity Regulatory Commissions (ERCs)

  • Independent body: ERCs are independent statutory bodies established by the government to regulate the generation, transmission, distribution, and trading of electricity in a particular state or region.
  • Role: The primary role of ERCs is to protect the interests of electricity consumers by ensuring that electricity is supplied to them at reasonable and affordable rates while ensuring the financial viability of the electricity sector.
  • Powers: ERCs also have the power to issue licenses to power generation and distribution companies, set tariffs, and adjudicate disputes between stakeholders in the electricity sector.
  • To ensure transparent framework: ERCs are an essential part of the electricity sector, ensuring that there is a fair and transparent regulatory framework that promotes competition, efficiency, and innovation.

Importance of Public Participation in the decision-making process of electricity distribution companies

  • Transparency: Public participation promotes transparency in the decision-making process, It ensures that stakeholders are informed about the decisions being made, the rationale behind them, and the potential impact on the community.
  • Accountability: It creates a system of checks and balances that helps ensure that decisions made are in the best interest of the public.
  • Improved Decision Making: Public participation can provide DISCOMs with valuable insights and perspectives from the community. This can help improve decision-making by ensuring that decisions are made based on a comprehensive understanding of the issues and the needs of the community.
  • Increased Trust: When the public is involved in the decision-making process, it helps build trust between the community and the DISCOM. This can lead to increased support for the decisions made, greater acceptance of the outcomes, and reduced potential for conflict or opposition.
  • Community Empowerment: Public participation can empower the community to have a voice in the decisions that affect their daily lives. This can lead to a greater sense of ownership and responsibility for the outcomes, as well as increased engagement and participation in future decision-making processes.

In-person Public Hearings

  1. Pros of In-person Public Hearings
  • Greater sense of community: In-person hearings provide a greater sense of community and allow for face-to-face interactions, which can help build trust and foster dialogue.
  • Physical presence: In-person hearings allow participants to physically be present in the room, which can make it easier for them to be heard and have their concerns addressed.
  • Better understanding: In-person hearings may be more effective at conveying complex information and data, as participants can ask questions and seek clarification in real-time.
  • Increased transparency: In-person hearings can increase transparency as they allow the public to see and hear the proceedings first-hand, and hold regulators and utilities accountable.
  1. Cons of In-person Public Hearings
  • Accessibility: In-person hearings may not be accessible to all members of the public, especially those who are physically unable to attend, live far away, or have other commitments.
  • Time-consuming and expensive: In-person hearings can be time-consuming and expensive to organize and attend, which can deter participation and limit the diversity of voices represented.
  • Limited participation: In-person hearings may limit participation to those who are comfortable with public speaking or who have the means to travel and attend the hearing, potentially excluding some marginalized groups.

Online Public Hearings

  1. Pros of Online Public Hearings
  • Accessibility: Online hearings are more accessible to a wider audience, as participants can attend from anywhere with an internet connection.
  • Convenience and flexibility: Online hearings provide more convenience and flexibility for participants as they can attend from the comfort of their own homes and at their own pace.
  • Increased participation: Online hearings may increase participation from diverse groups and those who may not be comfortable with public speaking or traveling to attend an in-person hearing.
  • Cost-effective: Online hearings can be less expensive to organize and attend, which can allow for more resources to be dedicated to other aspects of the regulatory process.
  1. Cons of Online Public Hearings
  • Technical difficulties: Online hearings may be subject to technical difficulties, such as poor internet connection or difficulties with the online platform, which can hinder participation and the effectiveness of the hearing.
  • Limited sense of community: Online hearings may lack the sense of community that in-person hearings provide, potentially limiting the opportunity for dialogue and relationship building.
  • Digital divide: Online hearings may be inaccessible to those who do not have reliable internet access or the necessary technology to participate.
  • Privacy concerns: Online hearings may raise privacy concerns, as participants may be uncomfortable sharing personal information or speaking out in a public forum.

What could be the best option?

  • A hybrid mode with both in-person and online options is the best approach to ensure quality public participation.
  • Moving back to the pre-pandemic practice of only in-person hearings takes away a convenient avenue for consumer engagement and impacts meaningful interactions that are possible in the in-person platform.
  • The provision of online mode in addition to in-person hearings would strengthen public participation and plug access gaps, provide flexibility of participation to the citizen, and enable a robust avenue for public participation.


  • Public hearings conducted in hybrid mode, with the choice of mode being left to the citizen, are best suited to improving access and ensuring quality public participation. There is a need for institutions to continue to build infrastructure and experience toward online hearings and make improvements in how online hearings are conducted.

Mains Question

Q. What is the role of Electricity Regulatory Commissions (ERCs) in the electricity sector, and why is public participation important in the decision-making process of electricity distribution companies?

Are you an IAS Worthy Aspirant? Get a reality check with the All India Smash UPSC Scholarship Test

Get upto 100% Scholarship | 900 Registration till now | Only 100 Slots Left


Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join us across Social Media platforms.

💥Mentorship New Batch Launch
💥Mentorship New Batch Launch