ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has sought responses from the Islamabad Electric Supply Company (Iesco), the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra), and Bahria Town after scores of residents petitioned the court against overbilling and deductions by the management on electricity generated through solar power.

According to the petitioners who moved the court through their counsel Umar Ijaz, the disparity in the electricity bills issued by Iesco and Bahria Town is so much that the amount deposited against the electricity bills has become a source of revenue for the housing society.

The petition argued that the residents approached Nepra but to no avail. It claimed the petitioners’ agitation for fundamental rights was met with retaliatory measures by Bahria Town as the petitioners’ electricity meters were disconnected. Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, who heard the petition, said prima facie Nepra needed to take measures to redress the concerns of the petitioners.

The court order stated: “Regulator/Nepra is expected to afford an opportunity of a hearing to the petitioners and take such measures in accordance with the law as are necessary before the next date of hearing.”

Judge issues notice to Iesco, Nepra, housing society

‘Bahria Town distribution system’

According to the petition, Bahria Town – without a lawfully issued licence – began managing its own distribution system in 2002, receiving electricity from the national grid and distributing it to the residents.

In 2005, a resident filed a complaint against the housing society for the disconnection of the electricity supply to his house. Nepra conducted a hearing in 2006 and directed Iesco to provide electricity to the complainant as per its mandate under the Regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power Act, 1997. Iesco failed to comply with the said order and was even issued a show cause notice by Nepra, but the same has never been agitated by any of the respondents.

Meanwhile, Bahria Town applied for an electricity distribution licence in 2007. Iesco initially agreed to surrender a part of its territory, but later on, its board of directors refused. Nepra modified Iesco’s distribution licence in 2010, and, after due approval, the Bahria Town service area was excluded from the purview of Iesco’s licence.

On Nov 24, 2010, Bahria Town was granted a 20-year distribution licence by Nepra under Section 21 of the said act, disregarding the exclusive territorial rights rightfully belonging to Iesco. “This blatant disregard for jurisdiction prompted Iesco to initiate several writ petitions in 2011 and 2012 before the Islamabad High Court aimed at revoking Bahria Town’s licence.”

In 2020, under mounting pressure and legal scrutiny, Bahria Town agreed to surrender its licence, and Nepra revoked it on October 16, 2020.

Despite the revocation of its licence, the housing society persisted in billing consumers and imposing unauthorised and unapproved additional charges, further exacerbating the financial burden on residents, claimed the petition.

After years of lengthy proceedings, on April 18, 2023, Nepra finally announced its decision regarding the distribution network of Bahria Town by Iesco and held that since the housing society did not possess a distribution licence, it had no right to continue billing consumers; instead, all billing should be shifted to Iesco forthwith.

However, the petition went on to state that the order of Nepra was yet to be complied with as Bahria Town was still charging the residents.

Last month, the petition said, Bahria Town once again imposed unapproved and excessive electricity tariffs that exceeded Iesco-approved rates by up to Rs15.66 per unit. Additionally, the society implemented unjust increases, such as a Rs4 per unit under TA Adjustment, leading to a net increase of Rs8 per unit, along with illegal miscellaneous service charges amounting to Rs3700. According to the petition, Bahria Town also imposed unauthorised adjustments on solar users, deducting 30pc of exported units without authorisation.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2024

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