KARACHI: The Sindh High Court has dismissed an application of K-Electric seeking from the provincial government cost for relocation of its underground electric cables for reconstruction of a road in North Nazimabad.

A single-judge bench headed by Justice Adnan Iqbal Chaudhry remarked that the power utility placed nothing on record to demonstrate that the electric cables had been laid by it pursuant to any plan or approval duly granted under the Electricity Act, 1910.

The KE in its lawsuit submitted that the provincial government was reconstructing a road in Shahrah-i-Noor Jahan from Abdullah College to Qalandria Chowk near North Nazimabad and the project director had asked the power utility to relocate underground electric cables.

Citing the chief secretary, secretary of the local government department and others as defendants, the plaintiff further argued that the estimated cost of relocating such cables was around Rs390.8 million and KE had asked the authorities concerned to pay the same and to stop construction of the road until payment was made.

However, the lawyer for the power utility contended that the defendants nonetheless continued with construction thereby damaging underground cables and pleaded for an interim restraining order to stop carpeting of road.

The bench in its order stated that there was a stalemate as the KE was not willing to shift or align its underground electric cables until it was paid the cost while the defendants were also not ready to pay such cost stating that they were not liable.

In the meanwhile, “construction of a main road lies in limbo to the inconvenience and risk of the public while documents filed showed that one worker at the site has already been electrocuted, but was fortunate to survive”, it added.

Referring to the relevant law, the bench noted that it did not see how the KE can compel a non-sponsoring government department constructing a public road to make payment under the Consumer Service Manual.

The counsel for KE then submitted that on previous occasions as well, while undertaking development projects in the city, government departments usually pay the power utility for shifting underground or overhead electric cables.

“While that may be so, however, where the government contracts the services/expertise of K-Electric for shifting electric cables whilst undertaking public projects, that is apparently independent of the Consumer Service Manual and is completely different from saying that said manual is enforceable at law against the government where it is not acting as a consumer,” the bench in its order said.

It further observed that the procedure for digging streets (including roads) to lay electric cables was also dealt with by the Electricity Act, 1910 and its Section 13 stated that before doing so the licensee (KE) shall give prior notice to the person responsible for repairing the street (Sindh government) along with a section and plan of the proposed works for approval.

However, it noted that the KE could not place on record to show that such cables had been laid down by it pursuant to any plan/approval duly granted under the Electricity Act, 1910.

The bench said that there was weight in the project manager’s argument that these cables were unknown so the costing of the road could not factor in the shifting of such cables and resultantly, the defendants cannot be compelled to pay the KE for the same.

“Under the circumstances, the K-Electric has not been able to make out a prima facie case for restraining the completion of the road. The balance of convenience is also in favour of the defendants and the public for whom the road is intended. Therefore, the listed applications are dismissed,” it concluded.

Meanwhile, the KE has filed an intra-court appeal before a division bench of the SHC against the order by Justice Chaudhry.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2022

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