No funds to give 50% waiver on power bills: Delhi govt to HC

No funds to give 50% waiver on power bills: Delhi govt to HC

The city government today told the Delhi High Court that erstwhile Arvind Kejriwal-led cabinet's decision to give 50 per cent waiver on power arrears of people who did not pay their bills from October 2012 to December 2013 cannot be implemented due to non-allocation of funds for the same in the budget for 2013-14.

In an affidavit submitted before a bench of acting Chief Justice B D Ahmed and Justice S Mridul, Delhi government said no provision was made in the budget to release funds, to the tune of Rs 6,821 crore, for providing the one-time relief to the electricity consumers who did not pay their bills.

"Department of Power, GNCTD, vide letter dated February 14, 2014, submitted a revised final Excess and Saving statement for 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...

"The competent authority of the government has not made any provision in the budget for release of funds for the purpose and in absence of availability of funds, therefore, in the present circumstances it is not possible to implement the decision of the cabinet for providing relief to electricity consumers who stopped paying their bills anytime between October 2012 and May 2013 till December 2013," the government told the court.

Advocate Vivek Sharma, on whose plea the court had stayed the operation of the cabinet decision to provide the 50 per cent waiver, contended since the government has only cited lack of funds as a reason for not implementing it, there is a possibility that it could come into force later when money is allocated for it.

"They are not saying they will withdraw it (waiver)," he said.

The court, after going through the affidavit and hearing Sharma's argument, fixed the matter for final disposal on May 22.

Meanwhile, the stay on the operation of the cabinet's decision will continue, the court said.  On February 21, the high court had stayed the operation of the February 12 Delhi cabinet decision to provide 50 per cent waiver on power arrears of people who did not pay their electricity bills from October 2012 to May 2013.

The cabinet had approved as a "new service" the proposal "to provide 50 per cent relief on pending arrears to the tune of Rs 6,821 crore" and to direct finance department to allocate funds for the same as well as to inform the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) of the decision.

The court, while staying the implementation of the cabinet decision, had directed the government to file an affidavit stating its "current stand" on the issue.

On February 19, the court had directed Delhi government to seek instructions and file an affidavit indicating the actual position regarding the proposal of the then Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government.

The court had passed the order as there was "no clarity" on whether the Delhi cabinet had taken a decision to implement the subsidy as claimed by Sharma.

Pursuant to the high court's February 19 order, the Delhi government had submitted in its affidavit that comments were sought from the Legal, Finance and Planning departments on the proposed waiver as well as withdrawal of theft cases against the defaulters.

The Legal department had said such a waiver can only be given prospectively and not retrospectively as per the statute, Electricity Act, 2003, the affidavit had said.

It had also stated that the Planning department had said that the proposed exemption was "not appropriate" as it will be "tantamount to rewarding the defaulters at the cost of honest and regular paying consumers".

The Finance department too had objected to the proposed waiver saying "it will give an advantage to the defaulters and disadvantage to the honest payers and thus it will create a bad precedent", the affidavit had said.

Sharma has, in his plea, challenged the subsidy given by former AAP government to people who did not pay their power bills from October 2012 to December 2013.

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