Electricity bills: Collect surcharge dues in 12 installments, SC tells govt

Court gives ruling to reduce burden of general public

Hasnaat Malik July 10, 2015
The Supreme Court of Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has directed the federal government to recover electricity bill surcharge in 12 installments instead of in one go.

The bench consisting of Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk, Justice Amir Hani Muslim and Justice Ejaz Afzal was hearing the federation’s appeal against LHC’s verdict on electricity bill surcharges

The Ministry of Water and Power had moved a petition under Article 185 (3), expressing apprehension of suffering irreparable loss if the judgment is not overturned.

“In the utilities and economic regulation cases, there are good reasons for judicial self-restraint if not judicial deference to legislative judgment.

The said principles, as enunciated by this honourable court, were not followed or kept into mind by the learned division bench of the Lahore High Court while passing the impugned judgment, which is liable to be set aside” the petition stated.

Attorney General Salman Butt representing the federation contended that the amount received from surcharges is used for the payment of circular debts. He said if the government was stopped from surcharge collection it would not be able to pay money to power producing companies. This would increase load-shedding in the country.

The counsel for respondents Salman Akram Raja argued that various surcharges in electricity bills were unlawful and unconstitutional. Since the apex court had suspended the LHC judgment Wapda had started collecting surcharge arrears from the consumers, the court was informed. The apex court had suspended the LHC decision on June 8.

Raja argued that the recovery of dues collectively would put extra burden on the people therefore the government was directed to receive the surcharges in installments.

The court after hearing the arguments ruled that the government instead of receiving surcharges collectively, collect them in 12 installments.

The LHC on May 29, 2015 had declared the imposition of the Equalization Surcharge, Debt Servicing Surcharge, Universal Obligation Fund Surcharge and Neelam Jhelum Surcharge by the federal government unconstitutional. Hence it was also declared illegal.

The high court had also struck down Section 31 (5) of Nepra Act 1997 under which these surcharges were imposed.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2015.