Plea against ‘arbitrary’ shooting electricity bills listed, but hearing yet to find a judge
Another judge of the Bombay High Court has recused himself from hearing a petition filed against high electricity bills in Maharashtra. Justice MS Karnik has recused himself from hearing the plea, after Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta recused himself from hearing the matter in the first hearing.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dutta and Justice NJ Jamadar had, on July 3, issued the direction of listing the petition before another bench.
In view of the recusal by Two Judges of the High Court, the petitioners have decided to file an application requesting the matter to be listed before a specially constituted bench. They have also written to the counsel for the Respondents asking them to not take any coercive action till the matter is heard by the Court.
A petition was filed before the court, seeking deferment of tariff hikes by electricity supply companies w.e.f. from April 1, 2020 for 2020-21, along with a waiver of fixed charge or demand charge for a period of six to nine months.
Mahibub D Shaikh, editor of a regional newspaper Bandhuprem in Solapur, had moved the court seeking constitution of a high-level fact-finding committee to probe into the reasons for the sudden upsurge in consumption which might have led to the increase in electricity bills in the state. This is apart from the rise in tariffs from April 1. The appeal also asked for recommendations on corrective steps which may benefit the consumers and to ensure that the consumers are not burdened to pay any amount towards unrealistically high power bills.
The petition was filed by advocates Rajesh Inamdar and Ranjit Shinde, and was drawn by advocates Inamdar, Amit Pai and Kalyani Tulankar.
The petitioner had submitted that amid the lockdown, where people from the private sector have lost their livelihoods and small businesses are trying hard to keep their business afloat, the state has revised the tariff and increased the rates which have affected the middle class and lower class consumers. Hence, the petitioner submitted that amid such extraordinary times faced by the citizens, the common man and small businesses will not be able to bear the additional burden of revised tariffs and the inflated electricity bills.
The petitioner had stated that he had received information from various people in Maharashtra that despite the fact that due to the lockdown their shops were closed, they have received exorbitant electricity bills in the month of June. The decision of the state to implement higher charges in the midst of the pandemic and lockdown does not benefit to the consumers in any manner, particularly most of the citizens have been facing several difficulties due to the imposition of lockdown.
The aforesaid rise in tariff is thus “arbitrary, unreasonable and detrimental to the interest of several lakhs of the citizens who are suffering from the pandemic induced lockdown.”
It had further been submitted that “the direction to the respondents to defer or to calculate the bill based upon the previous rates may result into certain financial losses to the State government, however, it is submitted that the larger public interest has to be seen which in the present case is removing the already existing financial burden on the consumers who have already lost their jobs or who are facing serious financial issues to earn for their livelihood or whose businesses have been shut because of the lockdown.”
-India Legal Bureau