In defence of the KERC ruling

In defence of the KERC ruling

Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC)’s quashing of the May 27 government order, making Occupancy Certificate mandatory for power connection, has found takers in two areas: The power sector and consumer groups that had approached the Commission seeking power connectivity.

Power experts say that the government order, if implemented, would put the power reforms off track, which has been in force since 2003. Prior to 2003, there was a concept of registered consumers or legal occupants. The consumer was entitled to power supply only if his/her name figured in the revenue register. With the Electricity Act 2003 coming into force, the registered consumer was replaced by the consumer.

The Act brought in several changes in the power supply as obtaining an electricity connection is considered a right of the people. “Being authorised or not is inconsequential to supply electricity. Section 43 of the Act confers universal supply obligation on distribution companies. Correspondingly, it is the right of the consumer to get power supply,” says Tushar Baddi, president, Vidyuth Grahakara Hitarakshana Vedike (VGHV), one of the petitioners who challenged the notification by the State Energy department.
The Department’s notification, following a direction by the Urban Development Department, came as a surprise to many as even the High Court has refused  to intervene in matters pertaining to power supply. “Section 50 of Electricity Act 2003 says that government has no role to issue any directions or notifications. This government notification was surprising,” says a power expert.

In 2009, a petition was filed by C N Kumara before the High Court. The petitioner had challenged a KERC order, refusing to make building completion certificate mandatory to provide electricity supply to a building. The KERC had observed in its order that it was nobody to look into building bye-law violations and construction-related compliances. That matter was the sole domain of the local bodies.

The then division bench comprising of the then Chief Justice P D Dinàkaran and Justice V G Sàbhahit had upheld the KERC order and dismissed the petition, saying that KERC cannot be compelled to make such regulations.

VGHV had contended that to supply power, one should provide a list of documents prescribed ,in which there is neither an occupancy certificate  nor the completion certificate.

The applicants’ contention was that the Energy department cannot issue such directions. “The power companies can disconnect the electricity supply only when the consumer has failed to pay the electricity bills or if there is a tampering of electricity meters.”

Quashing the notification, the KERC had recently observed, “Section 43 of the Electricity Act envisages a universal obligation on part of the Escoms to provide electricity on an application by the owner or occupier of any premises. As per the Act, the Commission has been delegated powers to frame suitable regulations for supply of electricity to the consumers on such terms and conditions. The Escoms, formed and approved by KERC, are  bound by terms and conditions specified by the commission. All persons who are entitled to get supply of power under the terms of the companies cannot be denied electricity for any extraneous reasons.”

The Commission put things in perspective, when it clearly noted: “Even a person whose occupation of a building is not as per the provisions of the Municipality Act and bye-laws is entitled for supply of electricity to his premises, if he satisfies the provisions of the Escoms. This way, the objective of universal obligation to supply electricity is met. Hence, the supply of electricity to an occupant of a building, whose occupation may not be authorised under Municipality Act and Bye-laws, serves a greater cause and does not amount to abetting any illegality.”

M G Prabhakar, former member, Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum (CGRF), Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (Bescom), feels the KERC order is favourable to consumers.
The Energy department’s notification would have led to harassment of consumers. "There would have been unnecessary delay in providing electricity connections and would have even caused financial burden on them," Prabhakar reasons.

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