Wednesday December 08, 2021

Supreme Court orders Nepra to conduct complete audit of K-Electric

August 12, 2020

KARACHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the KE to end power loadshedding in the city, observing that loadshedding of a single minute will not be tolerated and the power utility will have to face the consequences.

The court directed the chief executive officer of power utility to submit a timeline as to what efforts are to be made for ensuring zero loadshedding in future.

Hearing a petition against unannounced loadshedding in the city, the SC’s three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, took a serious exception to the performance of KE and its failure to provide uninterrupted power supply to citizens of the city.

The court directed the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority to conduct a complete audit of KE and initiate proceedings against it and impose heavy penalty on the power utility for its failure in supplying uninterrupted power supply to the citizens of Karachi.

The court observed that the entire city has plunged into darkness due to the poor performance of KE and directed that cases be registered against top management of the KE under murder and homicide charges for death of citizens under electrocution and their names be placed in the Exit Control List.

The Chief Justice observed that the KE has increased 10 times more the miseries of the citizens along with charging 10 times more electric tariff. The court observed that the KE had pathetic infrastructure and it used substandard material by changing the copper wires for running the power transmission.

The CJP took notice of the media appearance and statement of KE CEO and observed that he was not allowed to make speeches, rather he should have concentrated on his work and made the best management decisions. The court directed chairman NEPRA to increase the cost of penalty by making amendments in the law as KE was collecting billions of rupees from citizens of Karachi and imposition of fine of a few million on the KE will not make any difference to it. The CJP observed that his residential area also faced 4-5 hour power loadshedding in a day.

The counsel representing the citizens of Karachi submitted that NEPRA failed to implement its directives issued to the KE and whenever the regulatory authority issued a show cause notice or imposed penalty against the KE, the power utility used to obtain a stay order from high court against any such action. He submitted that none of the investigations against the KE has resulted into fruitful results due to stay orders by the high court. The court wondered on the KE stay orders on every NEPRA show cause notice and observed that the court will vacate all the stay orders in the KE related cases.

The court inquired chairman NEPRA, Tauseef Faroqui, as what was the alternate if KE's license was revoked as there were examples in neighboring countries that board of directors took over the company if the company defaulted in performing its duties. He submitted that change of administration will not serve the purpose, therefore, KE can only be directed to maximize its capacity for power supply in the city. The court observed that the KE should know the misery of citizens in small houses in absence of electricity where people were complaining of power interruption. The court observed that the KE owners were defaulters all over the world and got penalized but here they were destroying the lives of citizens.

The court directed the KE to ensure that there will be no power shutdown in the city and observed that power supply contract was not given to the KE for purpose of loadshedding but to supply power without any interruption.

KE CEO Moonis Alvi said that KE gained profit of Rs.8 billion which it spent on upgrading the power transmission system. He said that KE had made US$2.5 billion investment and increased 1,000 megawatt in distribution system, reducing the transmission loss to 19pc. He submitted that KE power plant for 800 megawatt was pending due to non-clearance from the government. He said that the government departments, including Karachi Water and Sewerage Board and Karachi Municipal Corporation, were not paying over Rs280 billion outstanding dues of the KE.

The court observed that every stakeholder was blaming each other and there should be some effective solution to resolve the outstanding issue of payment of power dues by different government departments.

The court inquired advocate general Sindh as to why the government departments were not paying the power utility bills, instead it spent Rs5 billion on purchase of luxury vehicles. The court directed the chairman NEPRA to submit the list of cases in which the KE had obtained stay orders against the NEPRA show cause notices and observed that further proceedings of stay orders will be taken up by the Supreme Court.

To a court query about electrocution of citizens due to KE faults, the CEO of KE failed to submit any plausible reasons and said that most of the citizens died due to electrocution in their houses. The counsel of citizens contradicted such an assertion of the KE CEO and submitted that most of the deaths were caused due to current on open wires and electric poles on streets.

The court observed that KE shall ensure all measures in future that no electrocution was caused to citizens of city and in case of any incident, the CEO of KE and other officers shall be taken to task and exceptional amount of damages shall be recovered from them. The court observed that besides imposition of damages, criminal cases will be registered against KE CEO, operation directors and general manager of concerned area and other officials if any case of electrocution occurred due to negligence of the KE.

The chairman NEPRA submitted that measures were being adopted to ensure that KE power generation and performance could reach at optimum level and the people of Karachi may not face discontinuation of electricity in the city. The KE counsel submitted that appellate tribunal and its members have not been appointed yet by the federal government which was causing delay in deciding the appeals with regard to power utility.

The court directed the attorney general to ensure that NEPRA appellate tribunal started functioning and secretary Ministry of Law shall ensure that members of the appellate tribunal were appointed within two months. The court directed the CEO KE to submit the timeline within two days as what efforts will be made to ensure zero loadshedding in the city in future.

The court directed commissioner Karachi to remove all billboards and hoardings from the public properties of the city and submit compliance report. Commissioner Karachi submitted that 300 billboards have been removed from District South and sought further time to remove structures from private properties, which were fixed in violation of the law. The court directed commissioner Karachi to take departmental action against DMC officials who were involved in allowing permission to install billboards at private properties in violation of the advertisement by-laws.