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Court puts fuel price adjustment on hold

January 12, 2012

Justice (retired) Tariq Mehmood when contacted told Dawn that a judge granted stay order in a situation when he believed that the petitioner might face irreparable loss or inconvenience in a matter. - File photo

ISLAMABAD: Justice Riaz Ahmed Khan of Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday restrained the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) from charging fuel price adjustment (FPA) from power consumers in a public interest petition.

According to a court official, the single bench granted temporary relief to the petitioner only but other domestic consumers could also seek the same relief from the court separately on the basis of given facts.

However, the petitioner advocate Inam Sehri told Dawn that since it was a pro bono publico petition (public interest litigation), therefore, the domestic consumer living in IHC territorial jurisdiction could also claim the exemption from FPA in their electricity bills.

'I will approach the court on Thursday for clarification of the court orders because my prayer was for all the domestic consumers which the court accepted and passed restraining orders,' he added.

He said the bills for the current month would carry the FPA and on the basis of the restraining orders the bills could be amended from Iesco offices.

According to him, after the restraining orders of the court the domestic consumers would save Rs2.04 per unit for July 11, Rs3.04 for September and Rs1.76 for October 2011.

Petitioner's counsel Barrister Abu Bakar Sehri told the court that the Nepra had collected Rs77 billion FPA from the consumers. He alleged that FPA is unconstitutional and against the article 4 and 25 of the constitution as well as it was a violation of the Section 31 of the Regulation, Generation, Tranmission & Distribution Act 1997 and the Nepra Tariff Standards & Procedure Rules, 1997.

He contended that the Nepra was negating its own policy of giving relief of Rs14 billion to the consumers on the basis of fuel price adjustment for the current fiscal year and instead imposed additional surcharge in the form of FPA.

He pointed out that Nepra through its notification of October 3, 2011 imposed an additional Rs2.04/KWh FPA on the units consumed by the people in July 2011 as the consumers were already paying Rs4.35/KWh. Defence counsel Advocate Mohammad Shafiq adopted before the court that Nepra had the authority to impose FPA or other related surcharge on consumers and the recent adjustment was also in accordance with its regulations.

The court directed the Nepra representatives to file their reply before 1st week of February and adjourned the hearing.

Advocate Khawaja Azhar Rasheed, an Islamabad-based lawyer, said if the court passed an order in public interest litigation (PIL) against any of the government actions, its implementation was binding on the ministries or departments concerned.

He said generally PIL sought an answer of a question of public importance from the court therefore its reply would not be confined to the petitioner's extent only.

If the government thinks that the restraining would affect its interests, it may approach the same court to get the order vacated, he added.

It may be mentioned here that the same court on November 18, 2011 suspended the government notification regarding the gas load management policy for CNG stations.

However, when Sui Northern Gas Pipelines (SNGPL) pursued the case the court not only vacated its stay order but also dismissed the petitions of the owners of about 100 CNG stations on December 23.

They were seeking uninterrupted gas supply to their stations.

Justice (retired) Tariq Mehmood when contacted told Dawn that a judge granted stay order in a situation when he believed that the petitioner might face irreparable loss or inconvenience in a matter.

He said sometimes a restraining order was passed after hearing the petitioner but when the other side came with solid evidence the court vacated its own stay order.

In the public interest litigation, Justice Tariq said, it was not necessary that each member of the affected class should approach the court.

In such cases the courts pass the orders for a larger segment of society and not for an individual petitioner, he added.

However, Ikram Chaudhry, a senior lawyer, said that sometimes the court passed an order in personam that remain between the petitioners and respondents and do not affect the rights of third party (general public) because the court would not be interested in passing on the relief to those who did not request for getting it.

In such a situation the petitioner may again request the court to revisit its decision and again pass another 'order in rem' enabling general public to get benefit from the same order.