The Karnataka High Court on Thursday dismissed a public interest petition for quashing of government circular dated 3rdApril 2020, regarding directions to all the Electricity Supply Companies (ESCOMs) amidst COVID19.
The said circular refers to the situation that has been created due to spread of covid-19 and the lockdown, also taking note of the fact that the consumers are unable to pay their electricity bills to their electricity distribution companies which is affecting the liquidity of distribution companies.
The Government has therefore directed the ESCOMs to issue bills for April 2020 on the basis of the average electricity consumption, and ensure availability of various modes of payment to the citizens. The Circular gave the following directions:
- Issue bills for April 2020 on the basis of the average electricity consumption.
- Make available various modes to enable the citizens to obtain copies of the bills through e-mails, Watsapp, SMS, etc.
- Different modes of making payments to be created such as online payment on ESCOMs website, payment through the Karnataka One Website/App, BBPS payment by use of all banks debit cards, credit cards, internet banking, wallet payment, UPI payments, PayU App etc. and IMI mobile App
A Division Bench of the High Court comprising of Chief Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice B.V. Nagarathna noted that the circular clearly states that this is only a one time measure for the current month keeping in view the COVID – 19 regulations and for the safety of the consumers. From 1st May 2020, the meter reading, billing and collection activities will be made in the regular way again.
The Court stated that the Government circular in fact facilitates payment of the electricity bills by the citizens sitting at their respective homes by use of various modes. The notification takes care of the excess payments made by the consumers in terms of the bills issued for April 2020, by providing that any difference in the average bill and the bill issued on the basis of the actual reading will be adjusted in the following month’s bill. Therefore, the act of the State Government of issuing the impugned, is itself in the public interest
The Court also stated that in the present situation, the Court is dealing with very important issues such as non-availability of the food and necessities of life to the weaker sections of the society and the petitioners should not have filed this petition.
According the Court, the petition should not have filed because no public interest was involved in the petition, and petition seeking a writ in the nature of mandamus is filed on the very day on which a representation was made to the State Government and other Authorities. This was an abuse of process of law and therefore invites imposition of costs on the petitioner.
The Court, while dismissing the petition, imposed costs of the amount of Rs. 50,000, payable to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund for COVID-19.
-India Legal Bureau