KARACHI: The Supreme Court (SC) restricted K-Electric (KE) on Friday from cutting off the connections of various departments of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) and directed the Sindh government to pay the power utility its unpaid dues of Rs580 million in five instalments.
A two-member-bench, comprising Justice Maqbool Baqir and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, heard the case at the SC’s Karachi registry.
Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar said that they cannot pay the K-Electric’s bills. “I don’t even have money to pay the employees,” he said, adding that all the revenue generated through the property taxes, charged parking and licence fee was claimed by the Sindh government. The KE itself owes KMC Rs7 billion, he claimed.
The counsel for KE, Abid Zuberi, argued that the KMC and Sindh government should resolve the matters among themselves, but the company’s unpaid dues should be cleared. The KE is facing hardship and the organisation is incurring loans to generate electricity, said Zuberi.
Justice Baqir remarked that the city generates a lot of revenue. He asked who will look after this city. Justice Shah remarked that the Sindh government claims all the revenue. Justice Baqir said that the provincial government should share where the money generated by KMC is spent.
Sindh denies more funds
Sindh Advocate-General Salman Talibuddin argued that the provincial government cannot provide more funds. He said that there were thousands of fake employees present in KMC, adding that they were providing funds to the KMC as per their agreement.
In response, the Karachi mayor said that no fake appointments had been made in the KMC. “Not a single employee has been appointed since 2009,” he added. He said that 13 hospitals were running under KMC but the organisation did not have money for the provision of salaries and medicines. The doctors haven’t been paid their salaries for the last four months, he added.
Justice Baqir asked why the Sindh government assumed that Karachi was an ordinary city. “You only listen to the one who can say things out loud,” he said. “What will happen to the city if the electricity connections are cut off?” he questioned.
The local government secretary said that the bills were not paid by the government residences and houses owned by the city government.
The mayor said that Rs200 million had been given to the Karachi Development Authority (KDA) out of a Rs500 million grant. Justice Shah questioned why the KDA needs the grant. “Why do people think that the KMC is a separate entity? Why doesn’t the government of Sindh think that KMC is also its part?”
Can’t pay, won’t pay
Mayor Akhtar said that they would pay the bills once their dues were cleared. The LG secretary said that the revenue generated by the KMC itself was 1.6 billion. “Why isn’t it increasing its revenue?” he questioned. To this, the mayor agreed that the revenue could be increased. “It is all about understanding the problem of Karachi,” said the mayor. “Karachi can never flourish if resources are not provided to it. How can other departments claim the revenue generated by us?” he questioned.
Justice Ali Shah remarked that there was a think tank that could determine how the city should be run. The mayor told the court that a zoo, sports complex, the fire department, hospitals and parks, everything was being run by the KMC.
The court ordered Akhtar to provide details about all the powers taken away from him and all the revenue claimed by other departments. The court will decide what powers would be vested in which department.
Justice Shah remarked that the entire matter seemed to be one of lack of trust, which was seen across the country. The court expressed annoyance with the parties for not being able to come up with a suitable solution, as they had been instructed to in the previous hearing. Justice Shah remarked that the citizens were suffering because of the political tug of war.
KMC’s counsel, Sameer Ghazanfar, argued that K-Electric should be restricted from cutting off the electricity supply connections. The power utility had suspended the electricity of the KMC’s head office, he revealed.
Justice Shah questioned whether the authorities will look for a solution when the ailing had passed away. “Do you want to drown this city in darkness?” he questioned. He added that the city was the lifeline of the country.
Justice Baqar warned the Sindh government not to take the court’s leniency for granted. The court can look into the matter of the powers delegated to the provincial government and the KMC, he added.
Later, the court restricted the K-Electric from cutting off the KMC’s power connections and directed the Government of Sindh to pay the K-Electric’s unpaid dues of Rs580 million in five instalments.
Besides, the court also ordered the KMC to start paying its bills regularly from April. It also directed that the matter of the division of dues and authorities be resolved by the KMC and the provincial government.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2019.