LAHORE: The Lahore High Court chief justice on Tuesday remarked that public protest against unscheduled power outages was a natural reaction.
LHC CJ Umar Ata Bandial observed if 18-hour loadshedding was carried out in a city like Lahore, the citizens would have no reason to sit at homes silently.The chief justice was hearing a petition against electricity loadshedding during Sehr, Iftar and Taraveeh timings. Judicial Activism Panel chairman Advocate Azhar Siddique filed the petition.
During the course of hearing, the LHC CJ expressed grave concern over unscheduled power outages in the country and the Punjab province in particular. “People will definitely come out on roads if they have been deprived of electricity as well as water in summer season,” he observed.
He said the authorities sitting in air-conditioned rooms could not feel the miseries of the common man. The government had doubled the miseries of people by exempting VVIPs from electricity loadshedding, he added.
The CJ held that Wapda could not be allowed to adopt adiscriminatory policy on electricity loadshedding/load management. Advocate Siddique argued that all government hospitals were exempted from loadshedding but, during the last month, three patients had died due to loadshedding in hospitals.
When asked by the court, counsel of Wapda sought time to file reply to this effect.The petitioner pointed out that, in a case about Neelum-Jhelum Project pending before the high court, the government had taken a plea that no work was being done on the project but, on the other hand, more than Rs26 billion had been collected from public through surcharge in electricity bills.
The CJ adjourned further hearing till Aug 17 and summoned six-month record of loadshedding schedule, criteria of granting exemption from loadshedding and details of steps, if any, taken to create awareness among the mass about the power outages schedule.
The chief justice also directed the federal government to apprise the court of problems facing it in production of electricity and submit a detailed report about money earned through electricity bills and its subsequent use.
In this case, the court had already directed the federal government and Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco) to carry out equitable electricity loadshedding across the country.Judicial Activism Panel chairman Advocate Azhar Siddique filed this petition and submitted that Punjab was being subjected to discrimination and given less electricity share. In other provinces, he added, electricity theft was at large scale and bill recovery at low, yet Punjab was being victimized in electricity load management plan.
He pointed out that the power production was being effected due to non-recovery of bills from other provinces. Advocate Siddique presented a published statement of Public Accounts Committee chairman and MNA Nadeem Afzal Chan against unfair and unscheduled loadshedding. The lawyer said Chan had threatened to tender resignation if loadshedding in his political constituency did not end, like in the constituencies of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, minister of water and power Ahmad Mukhtar and other ministers.
The lawyer said the statement of MNA Chan was enough to establish the discrimination against Punjab. The petitioner said, despite an announcement by the minister of water and power, the citizens of Punjab were facing severe load shedding not only during Sehr and Iftar timings but all day.
He argued that failure of electricity supply in Ramzan was a violation of the fundamental rights as envisaged in the Constitution of Pakistan, especially under Article 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 19-A, 23, 24 and 25 of the Constitution.
The petitioner prayed that the federal government, Wapda, Pepco and distribution companies in Punjab should be restrained from observing loadshedding or load management during the Sehr and Iftar and prayer timings.