ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court restrained the government on Monday from raising power tariff, pending a decision on a case and summoned a fortnight break-up of energy generation cost.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Chaudhry Ijaz Ahmed and Justice Mahmood Akhtar Shahid Siddiqui took suo motu notice of the government’s plan to raise electricity tariff.
On appeals in the media inviting his intervention, the chief justice summoned chairmen of the Water and Power Development Authority, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority and other companies to explain the proposal to increase power tariff, despite massive loadshedding across the country.
According to news reports, power tariff may be increased by Rs1.96 per unit, but Wapda told the court that the government had not approved the proposed increase.
The government has assured the international financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund, that it would increase power tariff by 17 to 20 per cent in two phases during 2009-10.
Advocate Anwar Kamal, representing the power sector, submitted a presentation which, however, was rejected by the court for being too technical.
‘Don’t press the poor public more,’ the chief justice said, adding: ‘we should be proud of our citizens who despite difficult conditions and state of war in the country were still loyal to the state and cooperating.’
‘Thank God a democratic government is in place and issues get discussed,’ he observed and said such issues should be debated at the highest echelons of the National Assembly to the lowest end of the union councils, instead of in cozy drawing rooms.
‘Power generation is a commercial activity and the court will not allow arbitrary increase of the utility,’ the chief justice made it clear and emphasised that all actions should be public-oriented and transparent by keeping the interest of the citizens and doing away kickbacks and eliminating the role of the middle man.
‘We know many things and should not be pressed to open our mouths,’ Justice Chaudhry said. He cited the example of Char Biyar, a city on the border with Iran, which used to be a desolate area enveloped in pitch darkness but is now providing electricity to Makran in Balochistan only because of transparent award of a power project to a private firm.
‘Here people are tired of overstretched loadshedding, what to talk of the ordeal of common citizens when even the chief justice’s residence is not spared from power cuts,’ he said.
‘How long we will continue like this,’ the chief justice said, adding that there should be some limits and suggested that the private sector should be lured to create competition that would automatically push the prices of electricity down.
Advocate Kamal told the court that power projects were always a cost-intensive exercise and the private sector was not willing to invest despite government’s best efforts.