Meghalaya: Treasury Bench rejects breach of privilege motion against CM
The Treasury Bench of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly rejected the “breach of privilege” motion moved against Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma by Opposition Member Zenith Sangma on the floor of the House during the ongoing budget session on Monday, March 15.
The privilege motion was moved by Zenith against Conrad for “misleading” the House by giving “wrong information” while replying to a pending motion with the title – “Failure of governance and deteriorating law and order in the State” on March 9.
The motion was defeated by a voice vote, after the mover refused to withdraw, stating that this is a technical matter and, long deliberation is required. “With brief submission, we cannot make people understand. The agreement signed in 2007 is based on the provisions of Electricity Act 2003,” he stated.
In his reply, the Chief Minister informed that the much-debated Rs 11 crore, which is the fixed charges to be paid to the National Thermal Power Corporation of India (NTPC) every month, was based on facts.
“NTPC billing amount for March 2021 says capacity charges/fixed charges was Rs 11.86 crore. This is the current bill we received from NTPC. This is the number I am referring to… So where is the question of misleading the House? These are facts,” he said.
Furthermore, Conrad said that apart from the Rs 100 crore the government paid a few months to NTPC through Atma Nirbhar loan, “we still have an outstanding bill of Rs 531 crore to be paid to NTPC and all of this is fixed charges along with penalty and surcharges.”
According to Clause 11 of the Power Purchases Agreement (PPA) signed between Meghalaya Government and NTPC in 2007, this agreement shall come into force from the date of signing of this agreement for all purposes and intent and, shall remain operative up to the completion of 25 years from the date of commercial operation of the last unit of the station unless specifically extended.
“As mentioned, this agreement is going to go on for 25 more years from the last date of commission which was in 2019. If you multiple Rs 11 crore into 12 months and then 25 years, it comes to around Rs 3000 crore. Further in the agreement, it mentioned fixed charges that are applicable there. There is no question of misleading the House,” he added.
Earlier, Zenith maintained that there was no mention of the amount to be paid to NTPC in the PPA.
"The agreement only says that NTPC can always divert power supply and share of Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited (MeECL) to any other bulk purchaser within 60 days of billing in case of default of payment of the bill," he said.
Reacting to this, Conrad said that for the past three years, nobody was willing to buy this power from NTPC because the rates are high, and no other consumer is willing to pay.
“The agreement further reads that in the event such a satisfactory arrangement is not made, NTPC shall have the option to terminate the agreement and not MeECL. Isn’t this a lopsided agreement?” Conrad asked.
The CM also said that what is even '"more surprising" is the fact that even after NTPC terminates the agreement, MeECL shall be liable to continue to pay the capacity charges each month. “Where is the question of termination of the agreement?” he asked.
Reacting to the argument made by the Leader of Opposition (LO) Dr Mukul Sangma, that these are “standard documents that cannot be changed”, Conrad said, “This is incorrect. There is no standard format that is made. There are discussions and negotiations that take place between the different suppliers and generation companies; there are different terms and conditions; it depends on negotiation and discussions.”
“In Clause 12, it clearly says that the exit clause is in favour of NTPC; they can exit anytime and yet impose fixed charges on us. The agreement was not in favour of the Government of Meghalaya and MeECL,” he added.
Countering the Chief Minister's statement, Dr Mukul Sangma said that the motion intends to ensure that there is no blame game and no impromptu attempt by anybody but to fulfil the responsibility of each one of us particularly, the State Cabinet.
Dr Mukul further justified that any beneficiary who enters into an agreement would have to pay fixed charges (capacity charges). “This is part and parcel of Electricity Act 2003,” the LO said, adding that the fixed charges will always be there in any PPA.
“That is why we are saying - don’t distort the provision of the law; if we deviate from the interpretation of the law to play to the gallery, that means we are shrugging off responsibility and accountability which is required,” he added.
After the mover, Zenith Sangma expressed dissatisfaction over the statement made by the Chief Minister and, refused to withdraw the motion, the House was put to vote where the Treasury bench rejected the Opposition Member’s privilege motion.
(Edited by Iban Mawrie)