A PIL was filed in the Bombay HC seeking relief against the inflated electricity bills received from March to May. The Court dismissed the PIL and directed the petitioner to approach the appropriate redressal forum.
The petitioner contended that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission suspended its activities related to the power supply. Due to this, the electricity bills issued were on an average basis. The petitioner relied on a newspaper report for this submission. The petitioner also contended that the bills issued were without any proper assessment.
Grounds of Challenge
The respondent submitted that due to the pandemic, the regulators issued the electricity bills on average consumption of three months. Many notifications on the method for calculation of units and electricity bills were issued to the general public. The petitioner referred to a link provided for verification of bills. Hence, the consumers may use this for redressal of their grievances. Detailed notes on the same have also been issued by the regulators for perusal by the public. The respondent contended that the petitioner failed to approach the Grievance Redressal Mechanism laid out in the Electricity Act, 2003 (“Act’).
The petitioner approached the Court with the following prayers –
- Direct the respondents to extend the benefit of waiver of fixed and other charges for six months;
- To direct the respondents to continue charging as per the tariff that existed before 01.04.2020;
- To constitute a fact-finding committee to investigate the sudden inflation in electricity bills, the rise in tariff from 01.04.2020 and recommend corrective steps for the benefit of the consumers.
The Court observed that only prayer clause ‘A’ is substantive and calls for consideration. In view of the prayer clause ‘B’, the Court held that it couldn’t fix a tariff for the consumption of electricity. This is for the reason that it amounts to interfering in a policy decision and thus, would be outside the scope of powers of the Court. Prayer clause ‘C’ relies on the assumption that there was mischief in the calculation of electricity bills. However, it is a general submission and hence, the Court cannot consider it.
The Court also observed that the redressal mechanism provided to consumers by the Act consisted of a three-tier system. First, the consumers could approach the Internal Grievance Redressal forum (“IGRF”). If the party is aggrieved by the decision of the IGRF, they can file an appeal to the Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum (“CGRF”). If the party is aggrieved by the decision of the CGRF, they can then approach the Electricity Ombudsman.
The Court observed that the Act provided for redressal mechanisms. Despite this, the petitioner directly approached the Court. Since a forum was available, the Court directed the petitioners to approach the IGRF. In light of the aforesaid, the Court dismissed the PIL.
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