National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) slapped a fine of Rs50 million on Karachi Electric Limited (KEL) after the regulator found that 19 deaths had occurred because of electrocution "due to lack of earthing of LT/HT poles and leakage of current from the distribution facilities of KEL", a press release said on Wednesday.
The regulator further said that the power provider had failed to fulfil "its statutory obligation to maintain safety standards" in addition to violating the terms and conditions of its license as well as Nepra laws.
In addition to the fine, K-Electric has also been directed to "complete earthing and grounding of its distribution network by April 2020 and carry out third party verification of its distribution system". The power distributor has also been ordered to complete an internal inquiry and "fix the responsibility on its employees/management and submit its final report" to Nepra.
The press statement added that the regulatory authority had also considered KEL's offer to pay compensation money to the families of the vicitms "in good faith" and had directed that the details of the compensation be shared with Nepra at the earliest.
"Design of distribution network of KEL does not meet the design requirements as laid down in the relevant Code and Manual. Moreover, KEL allowed telephone/TV/internet cable operators to use its distribution network in a hazardous manner for their purposes," Nepra noted in its order.
"Further, KEL failed to report fatalities immediately after occurrence to the Authority in a prescribed manner and also failed to restore supply of electricity within the prescribed time limits."
The statement was an announcement of Nepra's decision following a probe into the deaths of multiple people who had died in Karachi during the monsoon rains in July and August this year. Nepra had launched a probe against K-Electric in August and in September had concluded that the power company was responsible for 19 out of 35 deaths.
K-Electric was served with a show-cause notice by Nepra and the regulatory authority had directed the company to submit a response in the matter.
Need to take 'external factors' into consideration: KE
Following Nepra's press release, the spokesperson for K-Electric said in a statement that "external factors" like kundas and unauthorised television cables that "compromise the integrity of the power infrastructure" should be taken into consideration. He argued that water surrounding electric poles also led to the electrocution of citizens.
"These factors bypass electrical safety mechanisms thus creating public safety hazards. KE feels that these factors warrant serious attention," the statement read.
The statement said that K-Electric had carried out "multiple drives" to root out external factors, citing the efforts to shift cables underground.
"The power utility has written to commissioner Karachi, chairman Pemra, requesting that necessary measures be taken before the next monsoons to prevent water-logging and enable the power utility to provide the best service possible," the press release added.
It said that the power supplier was holding a "detailed review" of the order, adding that the company will also request Nepra to review the matter.