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Thursday May 23, 2024

SHC directs energy dept to pay all outstanding power dues of Karachi Bar Association

By Jamal Khurshid
April 30, 2023

The Sindh High Court (SHC) has directed the provincial energy department to make payment of all outstanding electricity dues of the Karachi Bar Association (KBA) and made clear that in case any hindrance was created by government departments in clearing the dues, it would be tantamount to defiance of the court order.

The direction came on a petition of the KBA against non-payment of its electricity bills by the energy department. The KBA’s counsel, Syed Haider Imam Rizvi and Tehmasp R Razvi, submitted that the bar association’s power bills were not being paid by the energy department despite the fact that all other bar association and bar council offices’ electricity bills were paid by the energy department.

They submitted that the KBA office was also housed in the district courts premises, but it was being treated differently by the energy department from other bar associations of the province.

The energy department submitted in its comments that the outstanding dues of the KBA could not be cleared from the budgetary allocation earmarked for government departments.

The energy department requested the high court to ask the KBA to clear its outstanding dues from its own resources or else it would open the floodgates for all such associations and it would be impossible for the Sindh government to control the claims in the future.

A division bench of the SHC headed by Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi after hearing the arguments and perusal of the comments submitted by the energy department observed that admittedly, the premises being used by the KBA were owned by the Sindh government, hence, its maintenance and payment of utilities were also the responsibility of the provincial government unless there was an agreement with the KBA for payment of utility charges from their own resources.

The high court observed that the Sindh government was admittedly making payment of electricity bills of all the bar associations of the province, due to which there was no justification to discriminate the KBA by refusing to make payment of its power bills.

The SHC observed that the KBA could not be treated differently from other bar associations which were also housed in district courts and the high courts in all over the province on ground that electricity meters had been installed in the name of the KBA.

The bench observed that the K-Electric had already expressed its willingness to change the consumer name of such meters from the KBA to the name of the respective district and sessions court.

The high court allowed the petition of the KBA and directed the energy department to make payment of all the outstanding dues of the KBA up to the date of current bills.

The SHC made clear that in case any hindrance was created by government departments, including the law, finance and energy departments, in making the payment, it would be tantamount to defiance of court order.

The bench also took exception to the conduct of the energy secretary for filing a compliance report in the matter while ignoring the admitted facts in the case with regard to payment of electricity bills of other bar associations.

The high court observed that the purported compliance report by the energy secretary was not only devoid of legal sanctity but also in violation of rules of business and procedure that reflected upon incompetence of the energy secretary. The SHC warned him to be careful in the future while dealing with court matters and always assist the court with true facts and correct legal position for which he was under legal duty to do so.