Civil society wants judicial probe into KE ‘overbilling’

Civil, society, wants, judicial, probe, into, KE, ‘overbilling’

KARACHI: As street protests broke out against excessive billing by K-Electric (KE) in different parts of the city, civil society organisations, labour and human rights activists on Saturday asked the Sindh High Court to appoint an independent judicial commission to investigate ‘overbilling’ and other issues related to the private power utility.

The demand was made on Saturday by rights activists including Karamat Ali of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), Zahid Farooq of Urban Resource Centre (URC), and Nazim F. Haji, founder of the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee, who gathered at the Karachi Press Club to raise the issue of Rs62 billion ‘overbilling’ and other problems that electricity consumers had been facing.

However, when the KE was contacted by Dawn, its spokesperson rejected all the allegations, explaining that each and every figure had been duly approved by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra).

On behalf of the protesting civil society organisations and rights activists, a constitutional petition had already been filed in the Sindh High Court against KE. Besides the power utility and the federal and provincial governments, Nepra, Federal Investigation Authority (FIA), National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Shanghai Electric Power Co Ltd were made respondents in the petition which was moved through Advocate Faisal Siddiqi.

The petition was taken up by the SHC division bench, headed by Justice Nadeem Akhtar and Justice Fahim Ahmed Siddiqui, on March 21. The court issued notices to all the respondents to submit their responses by March 28.

The petitioners pointed out that Nepra, being the regulatory and quasi-judicial authority, failed to take any action for the resolution of these issues. By keeping the matters unresolved, Nepra is acting in collusion with KE and protecting it ‘illegally, unethically and at the cost of national resources and Pakistan’s economy’.

Moreover, they said, the federal government also acknowledged Nepra’s failure to resolve these issues while reflecting on its lack of confidence on Nepra’s performance.

In a letter sent to Nepra, the secretary for water and power said it was noted that KE consumers had been made to pay at least Rs62bn over the past few years, which violated the general policy and guidelines relating to tariff determination and had resulted in windfall profits for KE.

Earlier during the day, the Jamaat-i-Islami launched a campaign against KE by staging protest demonstrations across the city.

The party denounced the ‘high tariff’ and ‘exorbitant billing’ being collected by the KE from the people for the past five years.

The protest demonstrations were held in 50 different areas including Nipa, Hasan Square, Five Star Roundabout, Water Pump, Tower and Teen Talwar.

Holding placards and banners, JI workers chanted slogans against the KE and demanded government action against the power utility.

“We believe that power tariff should be decreased as K-Electric has cheated 25 million residents of Karachi and unfortunately the regulatory body has not done its work,” said Karachi JI chief Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rahman in a statement.

KE denies charges

The K-Electric, meanwhile, ruled out the allegations raised in the protests. The spokesperson said that the JI leadership approached the power utility management and were convinced after they were informed that each and every figure on these lines had been duly approved by Nepra.

“Similarly, those who claimed that they have found K-Electric overbilling have always failed to come up with evidence to prove their point,” she said.

“When they refer to the complaints against K-Electric lodged with the federal ombudsman, they do not share the details of those complaints as after complete hearing and process, decisions of 80 per cent complaints come out in favour of K-Electric. This fact can be counter-checked from the office of the federal ombudsman.”

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