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Tuesday October 04, 2022

SHC seeks Nepra’s comments on JI plea against fuel adjustment charges

September 22, 2022

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Wednesday directed the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) to file comments on a petition filed by the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) against ‘illegal’ load-shedding, lack of power generation and collection of different taxes by the K-Electric (KE) from its consumers through the electricity bills.

Hearing the JI petition with regard to the collection of fuel adjustment charges, a division bench of the SHC headed by Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi observed that the high court was aware about the miseries of citizens due to power cuts.

The SHC observed that legal remedy was available in the law and if the KE’s actions were found in violation of the law, consumers would be provided relief retrospectively.

A counsel for the power utility raised preliminary objections to the application for a restraining order with regard to fuel adjustment charges and submitted that Nepra had issued separate notices through an advertisement for a public hearing for monthly fuel adjustment charges of April, May and June 2022. The counsel submitted that the petitioners did not participate in any of the hearings nor did they challenge the determination of the fuel adjustment charges before the Nepra appellate tribunal.

The KE’s counsel requested the high court to dismiss the application regarding duel adjustment charges as not maintainable. The counsel also sought time to file a counter affidavit to the main petition. A counsel for Nepra also promised to file para-wise comments on the petition.

Meanwhile, a counsel for the petitioners sought time to file affidavit in rejoinder in response of the KE objections. The high court directed the office to fix the identical petitions on October 6 as the counsels of the parties had agreed to exchange pleadings amongst them before the next hearing.

Karachi JI chief Hafiz Naeemur Rehman and others had maintained in the petition that the KE had failed to discharge its duty of providing uninterrupted electricity to the city’s residents. They argued the right to have power was an essential component of the right to life enshrined in the constitution.

They had pointed out the lack of an independent mechanism to check if the electricity meters installed by the KE provided a correct reading because only the power utility’s staff read those meters.

They had also pointed out that the Supreme Court and high court had passed directions to the KE to ensure uninterrupted power supply to the residents, but despite their orders, the power company ‘arbitrarily’ conducted load-shedding just for ‘financial gains’.

The petitioners had also stated that the KE had been charging almost double the power charges by including different taxes. They had argued that the KE had failed to perform and fulfil its obligations under its agreement with the government, and stated that the federal government should cancel the KE’s licence and take over the power utility.

The petitioners requested the SHC to conduct a forensic audit of the KE’s finances and restrain it from carrying out unannounced load-shedding in the city, especially during night hours. They also sought an injunction against overbilling in the name of fuel adjustment charges, and tax collection through power bills in the name of sales tax, general sales tax and TV

licence fees.

JI leader’s media talk

Speaking to the media outside the SHC after the hearing, the Karachi JI chief said the SHC had remarked that relief would be provided to the KE consumers if the fuel adjustment charges were proved illegal.

“As many as 3.2 million consumers of the K-Electric are looking towards the judiciary for justice,” he said. He accused the KE of employing delaying tactics before the judiciary saying that the private company allocated Rs380 million yearly for legal affairs.

He remarked that the KI would not let the power company go scot free. Unfortunately, he said, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan Peoples Party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and other political parties had acted as facilitators of the power utility.

In a latest development, he said, the government had decided to recover municipal charges through electricity bills, but the people would not tolerate the anti-people decision at any cost. He announced that the JI would submit on Thursday (today) a separate petition against the KE and government over the inclusion of municipality charges in the electricity bills.

He reiterated that the JI would hold a referendum from September 23 onwards against the recovery of income tax, TV licence fee, fuel adjustment charges, municipality tax and other charges through the power bills. He reiterated his demand for the cancellation of the KE’s licence and putting an end to its monopoly. He also appealed to the people to take part in the referendum.

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