Power regulatory panel in the dock over 'irregularities'
Consumers drag KERC to court for giving a go ahead for the new tariff hike two days before the deadline, irked over filing of documents by BESCOMS in English overlooking Kannada
Unhappy with the recent power hike, consumers have dragged the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC) to the High Court (HC), demanding quashing of the new tariff order as the panel itself 'flouted norms' while giving a go ahead to utility companies for the raise.
The KERC recently passed the tariff order increasing power rates by an average of 27 paise per unit. Protesting against the move, consumers have now challenged the hike in the HC alleging that the KERC, a quasi-judicial body, itself flouted rules.
On Wednesday, the court admitted the consumers' complaint and asked the KERC to give an affidavit with all relevant details when the matter comes up for hearing again on November 10.
"As per rules, the KERC is supposed to have given consumers a time of 30 working days before starting the final hearing process. As the proposed hike was advertised in newspapers by BESCOMs on July 29, the final date for hearing should have been September 14.
But the commission, in a clear violation of norms, gave its verdict on the hike on September 12, two days before the deadline, for reasons better known to them," said advocate Shridhar Prabhu, who is fighting the case against the KERC.
He added that the KERC had failed to ensure that all the filings (details of annual revenue register) by Electric Supply Companies (ESCOMs) are properly audited.
"There is some data missing in the filings, but the KERC has turned a blind eye to it and thereby overlooked the interest of common consumers."
Who's the beneficiary?
In the petition, the consumers have stated that the ESCOMs did not give out the correct last date for filing objections, thereby the whole procedure was 'highly illegal and untenable'. "The tariff hearings are meant to give the common consumers an opportunity to have a say in the matter.
However, this tariff proceeding was only a plain formality aimed to avoid effective objection by the consumers," said R Nagaraja Setty, a resident of Banashankari, who has filed the petition against the panel along with five others.
The consumers also are angry over
the fact that the detailed filings were only in English. "By filing voluminous documents only in English and conveniently overlooking Kannada, the companies have deprived the common man from effectively participating in the tariff process," Setty added.
The KERC officials, however, refuted all the allegations leveled against them by the consumers.
They maintained that the matter will be dealt in the proper manner. "We are going to give all the details to the High Court and since the matter is prejudiced, we cannot discuss it now. However, we will answer all the queries in the court," said M R Sreenivasmurthy, chairman, KERC.
If the High Court quashes the new tariff order, the whole tariff exercise that takes months will have to be repeated all over again.