CJP irked by continuing power outages in Karachi despite recent orders

Web Desk
August 13, 2020

CJP asks power supply company what authority it had to shut down the electricity in the city

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Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed on Thursday lambasted K-Electric (KE) for unannounced loadshedding in different areas of the city despite the court ordering the power supply company, two days ago, to ensure uninterrupted supply.

“Half of Karachi does not have electricity. Who are they to switch off the electricity? I warned them day before yesterday and they still switched off the electricity in half of Karachi. Are they in their right minds?” asked the irked CJP.

The top judge, heading a three-member bench, has been hearing a case against unannounced loadshedding and deaths due to electrocution in the port city at the Supreme Court’s Karachi registry.

The court was presented with a report on loadshedding in the city in today's hearing. The power supply company’s lawyer told the CJP that the electricity was not being switched off. He added that “75% of Karachi was facing zero loadshedding”.

The CJP told KE’s lawyer that loadshedding was happening in Delhi colony, Mahmoodabad, Defence phase six and five.

“Power outages have occurred [in those areas] due to low gas pressure,” admitted KE’s lawyer after the areas were pointed out by the CJP.

The top court also slammed KE for taking bail from the Sindh High Court in cases related to deaths due to electrocution in the city.

“People die and they go take bail from the high court for Rs50,000,” remarked the CJP. He vowed that it was a matter of "life and death", and the court will not leave the people at the mercy of KE.

Chairman NEPRA, who was also present during the hearing, also complained that the power supply company would take stay orders if the regulator would take action against them. He also told the court that there were “problems” in all matters related to the power supply company.

The regulator's chairman presented a list of stay orders that KE had obtained from different courts. He informed the court that KE had also taken a stay order over the Rs40 billion it had to pay to consumers.

The regulator informed the court that KE has also taken a stay order against buying electricity from a private company.

Upon hearing this, the lawyer for the petitioners asked the court to carry out a forensic audit of the power supply company.

The CJP remarked that the power supply company should be “heavily fined” for its actions. He said the KE was busy in minting money.

“Nowhere in the world do matters related to regulators end up in courts,” observed Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan, who is part of the three-member bench hearing the case. CJP Ahmed said that the people of Karachi were facing problems with KE due to the monopoly it had in the city.

The court directed the federation to present a plan for the supply of uninterrupted power to Karachi and said the remaining hearings of the case will be heard in Islamabad. The court then adjourned the hearing for two weeks after issuing the orders.

In the last hearing, the Supreme Court had warned KE not to shut the power supply of the city for a “single minute”. It also said that if they want to shut down the electricity then they should shut it down in their own offices.

The CJP had also directed NEPRA to monitor the company and take action against the power utility if it shuts down electricity in the city "for even a minute”.

SC rejects request to reassign charge of drain cleaning

In a separate hearing, the Supreme Court turned down a petition to reassign the responsibility for cleaning Karachi’s drainage system to the Sindh government from the National Disaster Management Authority, which it had assigned in the last hearing.

The apex court, under Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, made the decision after resuming hearing a case regarding rain-related problems and unscheduled loadshedding in the metropolis.

In today’s hearing, the Sindh government presented a report related to its performance in the recent monsoon season and the measures it took to mitigate the problems caused by heavy rains.

“You [the Sindh government] show us pictures after cleaning up two nullahs and claim that [all of] Karachi has been cleaned up now,” the top judge remarked on the performance report.

CJP Ahmed inquired that if the drains were being cleaned up as was claimed then why did water inundate the city during the rains.

“If the Sindh government was cleaning the drains then why did the NDMA have to step in?” the judge asked the provincial authorities in the court.

The advocate general responded saying it is not clear why the NDMA was sent to the city, claiming that 50% work was already done on the Gujjar nullah and 20-25% on the other major drains when the authority took charge.

The provincial government then sought time till August 30 for cleaning up the drainage system of the city.

To this, Justice Ijaz-ul-Hasan reminded the officials that the NDMA was already cleaning up the drains. He urged the Sindh government to help alleviate the problems of the residents of the metropolis.

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