KARACHI: Supreme Court (SC) has ordered K-Electric to restore power supply to Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s (KMC) head office as well as to the city’s parks, and maintain the continuity of power supply to the stated places till July 24.
It was hearing the case pertaining to the conflict between K-Electric and KMC over outstanding electricity bills. A three-member bench, comprising Justice Maqbool Baqir, Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, heard the case at SC’s Karachi registry.
The apex court also directed the power utility to separately install the electricity meters at the residences of KMC employees, located inside the parks, from those of the parks and asked KE and KMC to together devise a solution for the payment of unpaid dues.
The rift between both the parties had begun over the non-payment of dues, amounting to Rs580 million, to K-Electric by KMC, following which the former had suspended power supply to KMC’s head office, last month. This was despite SC’s orders that KMC starts paying electricity bills from April 2019 onwards and K-Electric refrains from disconnecting KMC’s electricity.
While K-Electric maintained that it was right in its decision to suspend power supply to KMC’s head office, due to the non-payment of dues, Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar was of the opinion that KMC is only liable to start paying the bills from April 2019 onwards, as per SC’s orders, and rest of the dues are to be cleared by the Sindh government. However, KMC still hasn’t started paying its electricity bills.
Lack of funds
During the hearing, Justice Shah asked why KMC hasn’t paid last month’s electricity bill. He also remarked that civic life would be disturbed if electricity connections of KMC’s head office and parks are cut off. In response, counsel for KMC, Samir Ghazanfar, maintained that KMC is facing a loss of Rs70 million and has requested the Sindh government for a grant.
Ghanzanfar had complained of the lack of funds in previous hearings too, with Akhtar claiming that most of the revenue generated through taxes was now being collected by the provincial government, during one of the hearings. The mayor had also blamed the Sindh government of deducting funds from the annual budget, which aggravated to KMC’s financial crunch.
Metropolitan Commissioner Dr Saif informed the court that power supply has been suspended to not just KMC’s head office but also to 12 major parks.
Justice Shah also inquired about the use of electricity in the parks. Ghazanfar maintained that employees’ residences within the parks’ premises were receiving electricity from KMC’s connection. On this, Justice Shah remarked, were KMC employees being supplied free electricity. He asked, in this case, why they weren’t paying their bills.
Ghanzanfar said that KMC hasn’t paid electricity bills for the months of April and May, and therefore, power supply to KMC’s properties has been suspended.
Finance secretary informed the apex court that chief secretary has directed to devise a solution for the payment of outstanding bills, after consulting with the representatives of KMC and K-Electric. A meeting has also been called regarding the Rs70-million loss faced by KMC, he said.
Sindh government’s stance
Sindh Advocate-General Salman Talibuddin argued that Karachi Mayor has said that Sindh government has taken control of KMC’s recovery sources. He said that the mayor should clearly identify resources that the provincial government has taken control of. Things cannot work if city government solely relies on Sindh government to provide it with funds and doesn’t do anything itself, he said.
In previous hearings too, Talibuddin had argued that provincial government cannot continue to pay exorbitant funds to the city government, stating that it was already providing KMC with funds as per their agreement.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2019.