According to the Attorney General (AG), old prices were effective and new reviewed hike would be charged in next month’s bill.
Three-member bench of apex court comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Jawwad S Khawaja and Justice Gulzar Ahmed heard the case on Friday.
The court directed the AG to submit report in the court after the approval of news prices and the hearing has been adjourned for indefinite time.
Earlier, the federal government submitted its reply to the Supreme Court in the suo moto case pertaining to the increase in power tariff.
Federal Secretary of Power submitted the reply in Supreme Court’s registrar office, in its reply; the federal government requested the Nepra to review the latest hike in electricity tariff.
The letter also included the report dispatched by NEPRA on August 05, recommending the government to determine new tariff, the power distribution companies’ request to increase the tariff and the government’s notification of revised tariff.
The federal government was of the view that the tariff was revised on requests received from electricity distribution companies. It said that the NEPRA is responsible to determine the power tariff, adding that the authority had set different rates for each company.
Meanwhile, the federal government also stated that the hike was approved on the recommendation of NEPRA, adding that it doesn’t have the authority to review the tariff hike, therefore, it has requested NEPRA for it.
During the hearing of the case pertaining to a suo motu notice after rampant load-shedding in the country, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry told the attorney general that the court was not fighting a legal battle against the government, adding that it wanted to be enlightened regarding notifications and authorities exercised.
Attorney General Malik informed the court that the federal government had set a lower electricity tariff as opposed to the rates proposed by National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra).
Moreover, Minister of Water and Power Khawaja Asif also said that the government had been asking Nepra to issue a notification as per the rules of procedure.
The chief justice said the minister had informed the court during a hearing of the Rental Power Projects (RPPs) case that the federal government could not influence the decisions of Nepra and questioned the legal standing of the recent notification over the rise in power tariff as it had not been approved by the main power regulatory body.
During the course of proceedings, Chief Justice Iftikhar asked if the government would finally withdraw the September 30 notification, upon which Nepra’s chairman Khawaja Naeem said the government had already determined the power tariff and that should be allowed to continue.
He said power distribution companies had already sent electricity bills to consumers in accordance with the September 30 notification, upon which the chief justice said that those should be withdrawn.
The power regulatory body’s chairman added that if the notification was withdrawn prior to November, then all the consumers would have to be sent separate electricity bills.
Another member on the bench, Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja, remarked that the government had not formed a policy to recover money from defaulters who collectively owed an outstanding amount of Rs441 billion. He said paying consumers were being billed extra because of defaulters, adding that it violated the Constitution and exploited the fundamental rights of the citizens.
Attorney General Malik informed the court that the notification which was brought in effect was not new and that the formula had been operational since 1998.
Responding to which, the Chief Justice said it was the government’s fault and that it would have to withdraw the September 30 notification, upon which the AG said the new rates would depend on Nepra. Moreover, Khawaja Asif also informed the court that the government would give consumers a subsidy of Rs150 billion.
Chief Justice Iftikhar said citizens should be provided with cheap electricity and that no unnecessary facilities should be provided to anyone.
The minister said once the government would submit an application to Nepra, the September 30 notification would stand dissolved.
During the course of hearing this case is pending in the court for since many years, adding that the court is doing inquiry that how the increase in prices was done by the government. He said to NEPRA Chairman that Nepra is an independent institution, so you should take steps independently without any fear.
Chief Justice said that the cement companies are getting gas on low rates but the rate of cement is increasing day by day. Upon that Chairman Nepra shared the details regarding the production of electricity.
Chief Justice Chaudhry said that there are several problems with the hydral power projects. He inquired about the price of gas that is being given to the fertilizer companies.
Chairman Nepra stated that the federal government decides the rates for fertilizer companies, adding that the rates of gas for fertilizer sector have been fixed from 2013 to 2015.
Federal Minister Khwaja Asif told the court that the subsidy is being given to fertilizer companies but now the subsidy is being withdrawn by the incumbent government, adding that this subsidy is being given to them from past.
Chief Justice Chaudhry remarked that after increase in gas and electricity prices the prices of flour are also going to increase. How the poor man could survive if government provided electricity at the rate of Rs. 18 per unit.
AG said that the NEPRA would decide tariff and assure the recovery of 144 billion rupees from defaulters, adding that if we see the tariff decided by the Nepra that the rate of electricity would rise than now.
Chief Justice said that if government wants to reduce electricity prices than it should generate power on gas instead of the oil.
The hearing of the case was subsequently adjourned for indefinite period.