SC moved against taxes, cess in bills

Published August 31, 2023
Traders shout slogans during a protest against the surge in electricity prices along a street in Karachi on August 30. — AFP
Traders shout slogans during a protest against the surge in electricity prices along a street in Karachi on August 30. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: A widow, who received an inflated electricity bill this month, urged the Supreme Court on Wednesday to order the authorities concerned to set aside taxes, charges and cess imposed on the people’s bills and that the same be recovered from the independent power producers (IPPs).

Saeeda Begum through her counsel Mohammad Waqas Malik requested the apex court to order the respondents not to use obsolete devices rather replace their system with inverter technology. She also sought withdrawal of free units of electricity and petrol/diesel doled out to legislators, members of the executive, judiciary and employees of the electricity department.

In fact, the petitioner challenged the amendments made by the previous PDM government in the Private Power and Infrastructure Board (Amendment) Act 2023.

The petitioner pointed out that inflated bills had created an alarming situation in the country since majority of recipients were incapable of paying their bills as they bear unjustified cost of production, income tax, extra tax, further tax, unjustified slabs in addition to fuel adjustment charges, etc.

The federal government, secretary of the energy and power division, Nepra, Private Power and Infrastructure Board and Defence Ministry have been made respondents in the petition.

The levy of taxes and cost of generating electricity do not commensurate when compared with the charges in the neighbouring countries, the plea said, adding that the petitioner was the victim of government’s energy policies and undergoing agony and helplessness. The public at large, including the petitioner, has been completely drained out.

The petitioner requested the top court to consider instances of suicides and protest by people. She said political parties were in slumber as they did approach the apex court for political benefits but never moved it for public interest. Even today their only demand is elections and transition of power but people, who bring the political parties to power, are never their priority, she regretted.

When the country was passing through a critical stage, rather experiencing a state of emergency, the luxury of air-conditioning even corridors, use of obsolete an air-conditioning system including window air-conditioners in the government offices and old-fashioned bulbs, tube lights and heaters still in vogue should be done away with.

The petitioner stated that Pakistan ceased to exist as a welfare state, rather was turned into a commercial entity by the introduction of IPPs.

Saeeda Begum lamented that raise in the electricity bill and levy of taxes appeared to be the only source for running the country’s affairs, adding that the government had exempted the private power produces from all taxes and had rather focused on imposing cess upon the general public to pay, which was unjustified and harsh.

The petition said that the authorities concerned must be held responsible for the line losses and theft, adding it was strange that electricity stolen with the connivance of the authorities was recovered from the general public.

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2023

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