KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) has sought comments from the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) on a petition seeking inquiry into the installation of new smart electricity meters in the city by K-Electric (K-E).
Headed by SHC Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M Sheikh, a two-judge bench directed the national power regulator on Wednesday to submit its reply by November 15.
The directive was given when the court took up a petition jointly filed by Uzair Shahid and Advocate Dur Muhammad Shah, who named the K-E chief executive officer (CEO), Nepra and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) director-general as respondents.
Advocate Shah informed the bench that he lived in a three-room apartment, where no heavy appliances like air-conditioners or UPS devices were installed. He said since the last 15 years the monthly consumption of power units at his residence ranged between 150 and 180 units, resulting in electricity bills between Rs1,500 and Rs2,500.
The lawyer stated that in March last year, suddenly the consumption of power units increased to 2,253 units, raising the electricity bill to Rs46,541. When he investigated the matter, he came to know that K-E had removed the old meter without obtaining his signature and installed a new smart digital meter on February 24, 2016.
The petitioner informed the court that the new meter runs very fast, due to which electricity bills of power consumers have multiplied. Aggrieved by paying excessive bills every month, Advocate Shah filed a complaint with the federal ombudsman in Karachi on September 26, 2016. The ombudsman ordered the K-E management to revise his bills. However, the power utility did not comply with the ombudsman’s orders, the petitioner claimed.
The petitioners argued that the new smart digital meters, which were imported by a Chinese company, could be controlled through devices like mobile phones and laptops. They alleged that K-E’s management has been manipulating the meters.
“The units are increased or decreased in the digital electricity meter through mobile phone or remote control,” Advocate Shah claimed.
The petitioners alleged that through such manipulation, the power utility collected Rs77 billion through excessive billing in September this year. The petitioners informed the bench that they also complained to Nepra in August this year regarding the manipulation of meter readings by K-E but no action had so far been taken by the national power regulatory against the power utility.
The petitioners also claimed to have approached NAB on October 10 requesting the accountability watchdog to initiate an inquiry into the installation of smart digital electricity meters.
“As per the international research regarding installation of new smart digital meters, it has been scientifically proven that these digital smart meters run 582 times faster than the actual consumption of units,” Advocate Shah claimed.
The SHC was pleaded to direct K-E to remove all such digital smart meters from Karachi which were installed to charge excessive bills from the power consumers. The court was requested to direct the Nepra to impose fine on the K-E management under the Nepra Act, 1997 for charging bills of excessive units from the consumers. A direction was also sought for the NAB to investigate the matter.
After hearing the preliminary arguments, the bench issued a notice to the Nepra chairperson to file reply on the petition and adjourned the hearing till November 15.
JI challenges hike in power charges
Meanwhile, the recent hike was challenged in the SHC by Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Karachi Amir Hafiz Naeemur Rehman against the K-E management, Nepra and others for increasing electricity charges.
In his plea, Rehman stated that K-E had declared a profit of Rs32 billion this year. He mentioned that the federal government had also given a subsidy of Rs22 billion to the power utility, adding that the national grid was also supplying 400 megawatts electricity to K-E.
Rehman said despite the profit K-E was earning and the subsidies it was enjoying, the power utility’s management recently announced an increased tariff for the people of Karachi, which could not be justified.
He added that the power utility already owed billions of rupees to residents, which it had usurped from them in the head of excessive bills.
The SHC was pleaded to strike down the new electricity tariff imposed by the K-E management by declaring it as unjustified, unfair and illegal.
Talking to the media, the JI Karachi amir said K-E had 2.4 million consumers in Karachi and 70% of them consumed 100 to 300 power units per month. He claimed that in 2005, then K-E management had promised in its privatisation agreement that it would provide cheap electricity to its consumers without suspension. However, the power utility failed to keep its promises and so it had no right to increase the power tariff, especially when it was already excessively charging the consumers under the heads of fuel adjustment and meter rent charges, he maintained.