82-year-old Gandhinagar woman wins consumer case against Sabarmati Gas
Eighty-two-year-old Gunvantiben Ghediya was in hospital following a cardiac arrest when she got the regulator’s order in her favour
An 82-year-old woman from Gujarat’s Gandhinagar, who accused the Sabarmati Gas of overcharging her and 217 other residents of Amba township when taking security deposits for piped gas connections to their homes, has won the case against the company after battling for eight years.
Gunvantiben Ghediya was in hospital following a cardiac arrest at the time of pronouncement of the order by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB)..
On February 9, the regulator PNGRB ordered Sabarmati Gas, a joint venture of BPCL and GSPC, to refund the excess amount charged by the company by March 23 or face the consequences. This will involve a payout of at least ₹11 lakh from Sabarmati Gas to all 218 residents.
Ghediya, in September 2014, complained to the PNGRB that Sabarmati Gas had illegally collected a security deposit of ₹10,000 or double the amount authorised by the regulator. On March 12, 2015 she filed a petition at the Gujarat high court seeking a refund. The court, on November 7, 2022, asked PNGRB to decide the matter within six weeks.
“Sabarmati Gas defaulted the mandate of Regulation 14 service obligation (which lays out the relationship between gas retailer and customer) and charged more than what was stipulated in the PNGRB Act, 2006,” the order said.
The PNGRB in its order observed that the ‘petitioner got hospitalised due to cardiac arrest on January 26, 2023 and therefore, would not be able to appear before the Board.
Defending the Sabarmati Gas, its counsel Aspi Kapadia argued that Ghediya applied for a piped gas connection in May 2009 and paid the security deposit in “accordance with the policy in vogue”, but Sabarmati received the PNGRB authorisation for the area on October 9, 2009.
The PNGRB order rejected this saying it was established on October 1, 2007, and CGD authorisation regulations came into force on March 19, 2008.
“Sabarmati Gas had acknowledged charging ₹10,000 security deposit to Ghediya in May 2009, and the domestic gas connection was commissioned in July 2009,” reads the order.
“This is after the enforcement of CGD authorisation regulations,” it said.
The Sabarmati Gas supplies piped gas to more than 2 lakh homes and 1,000 factories and businesses in the Gandhinagar, Mehsana, Sabarkantha, Aravalli, and Patan districts of north Gujarat.
“Under the PNGRB Act, 2006 and regulations framed thereunder, Sabarmati Gas should not have charged more than ₹5,000 before or after the CGD authorisation regulation came into force on March 19 (2008),” the regulator said.
Despite repeated attempts, HT could not contact Ghediya. A person aware of the matter said she was back home from hospital and recovering well.
A government official aware of the matter said that the Sabarmati Gas is planning to approach a higher authority to challenge the PNGRB order.