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HindustanTimes Thu,21 Aug 2014

HC suspends AAP govt's pending power bills waiver

PTI  New Delhi, February 21, 2014
First Published: 13:21 IST(21/2/2014) | Last Updated: 18:20 IST(21/2/2014)

The Delhi high court on Friday suspended the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government's decision to give 50% waiver on pending electricity bills of 24,036 consumers.

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These consumers had stopped payment of their dues during the AAP's bijli satyagraha".

A division bench of acting Chief Justice BD Ahmed and Justice Sidharth Mridul, suspending the AAP government's decision on waiver of pending power bills, also issued notice to the government for March 18.

The bench asked the government to file an affidavit on its current stand on the issue.

"Issue notice to Delhi government. The counsel of the government has already filed short affidavit. A detailed affidavit shall be filed indicating the current stand of Delhi government within ten days," the court said, adding, "In the meanwhile, February 12, 2014, decision (waiver on power bills) of Delhi government is stayed."

During the hearing, advocate Zubeda Begum appearing for the Delhi government submitted a copy of the department report on the decision taken by the Delhi cabinet.

The bench asked the government to clear its stand now.

"What is your (the government's) stand now? What is your proposed action now? Are you going to carry the decision now or not?" the bench asked.

The report filed in the court by deputy power secretary of the Delhi government said, "In view of the cabinet decision, the department of power, Delhi, vide letter dated February 2, 2014, submitted revised final excess and savings statement for the financial year 2013-14 towards making provisions for one-time relief to electricity consumers to the tune of Rs. 6.821 crore and for creation of a new budget head for the purpose."

The bench was hearing a the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Vivek Narayan Sharma, who also sought quashing the Delhi government's decision to close power theft cases registered against 2,508 consumers last year.

The plea said that such action of the government was like "sponsoring and abetting criminal/terrorism acts and acts against rule of law and constitution".

Shortly after its formation, the AAP launched 'bijli satyagraha' alleging that power bills in Delhi are inflated. As part of the campaign, Arvind Kejriwal, who assumed the chief minister's role after the December assembly polls, urged people of Delhi to stop paying their power bills, the plea said.

About 24,036 consumers in Delhi stopped paying their power bills in Delhi, reportedly from October 2012 to December 2013.

During this period, the authorities disconnected a total of 2,508 electricity meters for non-payment of bills and these people started to steal power. The PIL said numerous theft cases were initiated and are pending in the courts.

On February 12, the AAP government, announced it would provide 50% waiver on pending bills of 24,036 people, and also decided to waive off the penalties for default. After two days, chief minister Kejriwal and his ministers resigned for failing to table the Jan Lokpal Bill in the assembly.

The plea claimed that the AAP and its leaders were enticing the public to follow no rule, and the estimated loss to public exchequer because of the move was around Rs. 6 crore.


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