In an electrifying move, the Sindh High Court (SHC) slapped a stay order on the increase in electricity tariffs - including the fuel adjustment charges - by the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC), and asked the power utility as well as the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) to file a statement by June 23 detailing the reasons behind the increase.
The order came on Thursday from the SHC’s division bench, comprising SHC Chief Justice Sarmad Jalal Osmani and Justice Tufail H Ibrahim, while hearing identical petitions against KESC’s privatisation as well as the tariff increase, filed by the Law Foundation, Helpline Trust, Shehri and others.
The petitioners contended that the increase in tariffs was unjust and an attempt to hide the inefficiency of the KESC. The move, they contended, was to pass the burden of mismanagement onto the consumers. Contending that the permission given Nepra in this regard violated its own rules, the petitions sought for all future Nepra meetings concerning the KESC to be held in Karachi.
The petitioners also prayed for the government to be directed to give specific permission to power generating companies to import the fuel without levies which cause the cost of fuel, and hence electricity, to increase.
It was submitted that this move by Nepra was actually unconstitutional given that Nepra was a federal body and that the concurrent list’s amendment meant that the issue was now a provincial one.
The petitioners, contending that the KESC has broken regulations of the Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), also called for the government to take back the control of the power utility.
The petitioners counsel said that the government also gave subsidy to KESC but the consumers were not benefitting from it, adding that the KESC’s tariff increase would create immense hardships for the consumers. He also questioned the tariff structure of the KESC and prayed that the KESC be restrained from increasing the tariff of electricity that is obtained from other sources other than fuel.
The court, restraining the KESC from levying increased rates, adjourned the matter till June 23 calling for comments by the KESC and Nepra in this regard.
Published in the Express Tribune, June 18th, 2010
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