ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court issued notice to the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) and respondents in petitions challenging the imposition of fuel price adjustment (FPA) and quarter tariff adjustment (QTA) in electricity bills.
A three-judgment bench, headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Justice Amin ud Din and Justice Athar Minallah on Monday heard the petitions of Faisalabad Electricity Supply Company Limited (FESCO), Gujranwala Electric Power Company Limited (GEPCO), Lahore Electric Supply Company Limited (LESCO), Multan Electric Power Company Limited (MEPCO), Islamabad Electric Supply Company Limited (IESCO), and National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra).
The Lahore High Court on February 6, 2023 had declared that the Fuel Price Adjustment (FPA), Quarter Tariff Adjustment (QTA), and change of status of tariff from industrial to commercial by the Nepra as illegal and without lawful authority.
Additional Attorney General Aamir Rehman, who represented the federation, requested the bench to decide the matter as earlier as billions of rupees have been stuck, causing a grave financial impact.
During the proceeding, advocate Khawaja Tariq Rahim representing one of the respondents, told the court that they have not received the petitions; therefore, he requested the Court to adjourn the matter for some time.
The bench noted as the matter involves the interpretation of the federal statutory law; therefore, it issued notice to the Attorney General. It also issued notices to the respondents.
The chief justice directed the petitioners and the respondents’ lawyers to submit the objections in writing before October 16. He said on the next date will determine the maintainability issue and if the petitions are maintainable then the same day the court will decide the matter.
CJP Faez said that the court expects that the lawyers will make their submission. He categorically told that no adjournment will be entertained. He clarified in this case video-link facilities will not be entertained, therefore, the counsels of all the parties were ordered to be present in the court and argue the case.
The LHC in its verdict also directed the government to provide a maximum subsidy to the domestic consumers of 500 units per month and not demand extraordinary taxes having no nexus with the consumption of energy which may be recovered through other modes.
The court passed these directions in about three thousand petitions filed by domestic, industrial and commercial consumers against different charges collected through the electricity bills.
The LHC also court directed the government to explore the solar, hydel, nuclear and wind sources of producing electricity or arrange for cheap purchase of sources of electricity from other countries. The court also asked the government to explore the cheap modes of producing electricity and evolve mechanisms for its quick availability.
The court asked the government to ensure the smooth supply of electricity based on demand and not unilaterally change the type of tariff from industrial to commercial without hearing from such consumers.
The court also directed Nepra not to charge any exorbitant tariff beyond the paying capacity of the domestic consumers. The court directed the Nepra to inform the consumers about the charges on monthly basis and the fuel price adjustment shall not go beyond 07 days and the Quarter Tariff Adjustment shall not go beyond the statutory period.
The court observed that imposition of various taxes, which can be recovered otherwise, amounts to economic strangulation of the consumers. The court said the Nepra while deciding about the tariff must keep in mind that interaction between the consumer and the producer should not be excited by the fiduciary relationship for the simple reason that to earn huge profit the performance of the producing company must increase instead of increasing the price.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023