The power sector plays a crucial role in the country's economy, and sector decisions significantly impact the public. Given this, it is important to incorporate the citizen’s voice in a proper way in these power sector decisions. Public hearings that are conducted by Electricity Regulatory Commissions (ERCs) provide a platform for this. However, restrictions on account of the COVID-19 pandemic took away this option, until online hearings emerged.

Now that the COVID-19 restrictions are behind us, is it best to revert to the old in-person mode? Or should we transition to the new online mode? The central ERC recently issued a public notice where it announced that hearings would resume through in-person mode. The ERCs in Tamil Nadu and Telangana have also reverted to in-person hearings. However, several State ERCs, including those in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, recently held public hearings entirely online.

It is no surprise that both these extremes have their pros and cons with regard to a citizen’s participation in public hearings. As elaborated in the article, we feel that a hybrid mode, with provisions for in-person as well as facilitated online participation, would be best suited to ensure quality public participation.

This article was published in The Hindu on 15 March 2023.