KE, Nepra told to explain FAC, ‘excessive billing’

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The Sindh High Court directed the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) and K-Electric to file comments on a Jamaat-e-Islami petition against “illegal” loadshedding, lack of power generation and collection of different taxes by the KE from its consumers through the electricity bills.

The KE counsel raised preliminary objections to the application for a restraining order with regard to fuel adjustment charges and submitted that Nepra had issued separate notices through advertisement for a public hearing for monthly fuel adjustment charges of April, May and June 2022.

The counsel said the petitioner did not participate in any of the hearings nor did it challenge the determination of FAC before the Nepra appellate tribunal. The KE counsel also sought time to file a counter affidavit to the main petition, saying he did not receive complete documents along with the petition.

The petitioner’s counsel Usman Farooq filed a statement along with a copy of the Lahore High Court judgment in an identical matter about fuel price adjustment in which the court had directed the local power utility to issue revised bills to its consumers without the amount of fuel price adjustment.

A division bench, headed by Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, directed the KE and Nepra to file counter affidavits/rejoinders if any before the next hearing. The court repeated a notice to Nepra through a district judge of Islamabad with a direction to file para-wise comments by September 21.

JI Karachi chief Hafiz Naeemur Rehman and others said in the petition that the KE had failed to discharge its duty for providing uninterrupted electricity to the residents.

They said the right to have electricity is an essential component of the right to life enshrined in the constitution. They pointed out the lack of an independent mechanism to check if the electricity meters installed by KE provide the correct reading because only the power utility’s staff read the meters.

They also pointed out that the Supreme Court and high courts had passed directions for the KE to ensure an uninterrupted power supply to the residents, but the power company “arbitrarily” conducts loadshedding just for “financial gains”.

They said the KE had been charging almost double the electricity charges by including different taxes, because of which the bills of the original price of electricity consumed had been doubled.

The petitioners said the power utility had failed to stop loadshedding in the city, so the residents had been facing two to three hours of power cuts during night and day timings on a daily basis.

They said the KE is also collecting charges in the name of fuel adjustment from its consumers without any forensic audit of fuel consumption, adding that the KE has been extorting a big amount of money with the permission of Nepra in the name of fuel adjustment charges (FAC) by misleading the authority on account of consumption and purchase of fuel.

They stressed that KE has failed to perform and fulfil its obligations in accordance with its agreement, saying that the federal government should cancel the KE’s licence and take over the power utility.

The petitioners requested the SHC to conduct a forensic audit of the KE’s finances and restrain it from carrying out unannounced loadshedding in the city, especially during the night. They also sought an injunction against overbilling in the name of FAC, and tax collection through power bills in the name of sales tax, general sales tax and TV licence fee.

Talking to the media following the hearing, the JI leader Naeemur Rehman talked about multiple issues that he had raised in the court pertaining to the conduct of the private electricity company.

He said the KE was supposed to increase its production capacity as per the agreement with the state, but it violated the terms and conditions for the privatisation of the KESC. He added that instead of increasing its capacity, the KE was running old plants that consumed more fuel, resulting in increased fuel adjustment charges borne by Karachiites.

The JI leader recalled that the KE had to increase its capacity by 1,300 megawatts within three years of the privatisation of the KESC as per the agreement. It was also bound to invest 362 million dollars, eliminate the line losses and provide relief to the masses, he said, adding that noting materialised on the ground except for fact that the KE earned billions in profit while 30 million Karachiites suffered.

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