LAHORE: The Lahore High Court has barred the electricity authorities from charging television fee in power bills of consumers who do not own TV sets. All power consumers pay a mandatory fee of Rs60 in their monthly bills.
On Tuesday, disposing of a petition filed by Punjab Assembly Opposition Leader Mehmoodur Rasheed, Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh ordered the Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco) to stop recovering ‘PTV Fees’ through electricity bills from those customers who do not have TV sets at home.
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The court issued this order on undertaking of the counsels of Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV) and Pakistan Electronic Regulatory Authority (Pemra) that no fee through electricity bills would be charged from those consumers who do not have TV sets.
The lawyers said the electricity consumers without TV sets should file a complaint with the LESCO facilitation centre with an affidavit stating they do not own a television. After verification by the PTV representatives, no fee would be charged from those consumers.
Terming the levy of PTV fee through LESCO bills “exorbitant and confiscatory”, Rasheed’s counsel Advocate Sheraz Zaka had questioned how the fee could be levied in lieu of the services which were no longer needed or even actually consumed.
“Gone are the days when citizens used to place antennas on rooftops to receive PTV signals. Now citizens watch private TV channels through cable services,” he said. “Every month the cable consumers pay the cable fee as well as the PTV fee through their electricity bills,”
The counsel contended the fee could not be collected through the Lesco bills as this was in negation of the fundamental rights of citizens.
Rasheed submitted he was no longer interested in receiving the signals of PTV nor actually watched the state-run channel, which everyone knew it was used for official propaganda.
He alleged the revenue recovered through PTV fee was used for running advertisement campaigns of the government and requested the court to declare the levy of PTV fee illegal.
On the court’s query, the PTV’s legal advisor said the fee was collected through electricity bills because the organisation had been bearing enormous losses. Previously there were a large number of PTV viewers who never bothered to pay the fee, he argued.
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A deputy attorney general and the legal adviser of PTV argued the fee was imposed in accordance with Wireless Telegraphic Act, 1933 read with Television Receiving Apparatus Rules 1970.
Expressing displeasure on why the PTV fee was recovered from people without television sets, the judge ruled the fee could only be imposed in lieu of services and cannot be imposed on those people who do not avail such services.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2016.
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