SC requested removal of fuel price adjustment from electricity bills – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: Following daily protests from the general public and business owners over inflated electricity bills, a local lawyer on Wednesday petitioned the Supreme Court to ask the federal government to withdraw completely or at least reduce in a certain extent the Fuel Price Adjustment Fee (FPA) and other utility bill surcharges.

Meanwhile, the Lahore High Court has cleared dozens of petitioners to pay only the July electricity bill, excluding the FPA amount.

Lawyer Zulfikar Ahmed Bhutto, while acting pro bono publico, filed a petition with the Supreme Court to draw its attention to the huge bills that electricity companies had sent to consumers in July-August.

Over the past few days, the petition noted, electricity consumers in different cities across the country had taken to the streets against the FPA and other bill taxes as debts had reached unbearable levels for them.

The LHC allows dozens of petitioners to pay only the amount of the July invoice, excluding FPA

Citing press reports, the petitioner also pointed out that consumers were burning their electricity bills during regular protest demonstrations in different cities and pledging not to pay them until the FPA and other taxes were withdrawn immediately. , and the issuance of new electricity bills by power. distribution companies.

The petition lamented that the government, instead of introducing people-friendly policies, imposes heavy taxes on poor electricity consumers, bringing extreme discomfort to the very lives of the middle class. At a time when making ends meet had already become difficult for families due to rising commodity prices, the massive FPA and other taxes on electric bills had broken people’s backs, the petition, pointing out that a majority of people were earning Rs15,000 to Rs20,000 per month and trying to survive in rented houses in poor localities.

He regretted that the authorities had given the impression to the population that electricity bills had been inflated to such an extent under pressure from the International Monetary Fund. But, surprisingly, on the contrary, the government was increasing the service benefits of civil servants who were already receiving high salaries reaching millions, free fuel, rents and medical facilities, etc.

Recently, the government of Punjab has increased the financial benefits for the lower judiciary, the petition mentions, adding that on the other hand, taxes were imposed on the poor. The petition also highlights article 25 of the Constitution, which guarantees the equality of citizens, but regrets that this constitutional guarantee is not guaranteed. Similarly, Article 25A states that education was a right for every child in the country, but due to rising prices, this right was denied to children.

Likewise, he said, Article 37 provides for the promotion of social justice and the eradication of social ills, but due to such a “heavy unjustified financial burden” on the poor through utility bills. electricity, the purpose of this provision has been discouraged. The plea also argued its maintainability under Article 184(3) as hardship was being faced by the people across the country and they were being deprived of their basic rights as promised in the Constitution.

Non-FPA bill payment

Meanwhile, the Lahore High Court has cleared dozens of petitioners to pay July electricity bills only, excluding the FPA amount.

Judge Shahid Waheed issued the order on motions filed by Muhammad Sadiq and others challenging the recovery of FPA in electricity bills for July.

Counsel for the claimants argued that the process, assessment, submissions, purported calculations and claim of the FPA in the bills were not based on legally verifiable technical and financial data regarding the generation of electricity and cost calculation.

He argued that the erroneous legal interpretation of the tariff setting framework by the National Electricity and Power Regulatory Authority when calculating and charging the FPA based on unverified data resulted in a defective exercise of the regulator.

The attorney said the respondent accused the FPA of violating its legal and regulatory mandate in violation of the Constitution, as it violated Articles 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10-A, 14, 18 and 25 of the Constitution being devoid of the principle of procedural fairness and due process.

He asked the court to order the federal government to take all necessary steps to put in place a uniform regulatory framework, an appropriate administrative and institutional arrangement with respect to FPA calculations, tariff determination and billing of the electricity.

As an interim and immediate remedy, the lawyer urged the court to suspend the collection of the FPA through the electricity bills.

The judge issued notices to the respondents for September 14 and allowed the applicants to pay the amount of their electricity bills on time, with the exception of the APF for July. The judge ordered the registrar’s office to strike out all similar motions at the next hearing.

Posted in Dawn, August 25, 2022

Eleanor C. William