ISLAMABAD: Justice Athar Minallah of Islamabad High Court (IHC), on Friday, issued notices to the attorney general (AG), the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) and power distribution companies on a petition challenging excessive electricity bills.

The petition was filed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leaders Asad Umar, Arif Alvi and Dr Shireen Mazari.

Power distribution companies, in the month of September, charged excessive electricity costs from consumers. However following a public outcry, the federal government announced an investigation into the matter.

During Friday’s hearing, PTI counsel Farrukh Dall argued before the court that his clients are members of National Assembly and it was their foremost duty to keep a check on the executive to make sure that decision makers do not infringe upon the rights of the citizen.

He told the court that Nepra and power distribution companies had charged unjustified and illegal amounts every month by issuing inflated and exorbitant electricity bills and maintained that distribution companies (Discos) had overbilled consumers for the months of August and September 2014 without prior notification or legal justification.

He said that throughout the world, utility tariffs were determined keeping in view citizens’ purchasing power, but in Pakistan, power tariffs had gone far beyond the reach of an ordinary citizen. With an almost 200 per cent increase in electricity bills, it had become impossible for people to meet their monthly expenses after paying such large sums as power bills.

Advocate Dall claimed that the increase in electricity rates was not only discouraging new investment and industrialisation in the country but it would also hit exports and decrease employment opportunities.

According to him, citizens had been forced out of their homes and were compelled to sleep outdoors because of prolonged power outages. Despite massive loadshedding, consumers are issued full-fledged electricity bills, far above actual consumption, which is an explicit malpractice on part of the respondents.

Advocate Dall also argued that apart from making people’s lives miserable, and creating problems for business and industry by increasing the cost of production that eventually hampers industrial growth, hurts exports and burdens economic development.

He requested the court to direct the respondents to submit a detailed report of consumers’ usage and subsequent billing for the whole year.

The petitioners have named the secretary of the Ministry of Water and Power, Nepra chairman, Wapda chairman, Pepco chairman and 11 other electricity distribution companies as respondents in the case.

Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2014

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