Observing that it was an 'abuse of process of law', the Karnataka High Court on Thursday dismissed a petition filed challenging a government circular, directing electricity supply companies to issue average consumption bills for the month of April. The court imposed a cost of s 50,000 on the petitioners, which has to be paid within two weeks to the Chief Minister Relief Fund, COVID-19.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice B V Nagarathna said, "There was no public interest involved in the petition." The petitioners P C Rao (65) and K Ganesh Nayak (46), have been directed to submit a receipt of the payment made by email to the Registrar (Judicial).
The circular issued on April 3, refers to the extraordinary situation created due to the spread of COVID – 19 and the lockdown and the fact that consumers are unable to pay their electricity bills, which is affecting the liquidity of the distribution companies. The government directed to issue bills for April, on the basis of the average electricity consumption. To make available various modes to enable the citizens to obtain copies of the bills through e-mails, Watsapp, SMS, etc.
Further it states that avenues for making payments by different modes be created such as online payment on ESCOMs website, payment through the Karnataka One Website/App, BBPS payment by use of all banks debit cards, credit cards, internet banking, wallet payment, UPI payments, PayU App etc. and IMI mobile App.
It is only a one time measure for the current month (April) keeping in view the COVID – 19, regulations in place and for the safety of the consumers. Regular meter reading, billing and collection activities shall be made as before from 1st May 2020 and any difference in the average bill and the actual reading may be adjusted in the following month's bill.
The petitioners argued that such a circular could not have been issued by the Government of Karnataka and it ought to have been issued by the Karnataka Electricity Regulation Commission (for short 'KERC'). In other states a moratorium has been issued for payment of the electricity bills. They made a representation on April 8, making a grievance about the circular and praying for grant of moratorium, for payment of the electricity bills for three months.
The bench said "We find that the act of the State Government of issuing the circular dated April 3, is itself in public interest. This court is dealing with the very important issues such as non-availability of the food and necessities of life to the weaker sections of the society. In our view, the petitioners ought not to have filed the present petition."
The bench also took into consideration that a petition seeking a writ in the nature of mandamus is filed on the very day on which a representation was made to the State Government and other Authorities. It said "We are constrained to observe that the filing of such a petition is an abuse of process of law and, therefore, while we dismiss the petition, the petitioners will have to be saddled with costs. We quantify the cost amount at Rs.50,000."
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Title: P C Rao And State of Karnataka. WP No: 6686/2020Date of Order: April 9, 2020.Coram: Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice B V Nagarathna,Appearences.Advocate Dinesh S for petitioners.Additional Advocate General M Dhyan Chinnappa along Advocate Vikram Huilgol for respondents.
Title: P C Rao And State of Karnataka.
WP No: 6686/2020
Date of Order: April 9, 2020.
Coram: Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice B V Nagarathna,
Advocate Dinesh S for petitioners.
Additional Advocate General M Dhyan Chinnappa along Advocate Vikram Huilgol for respondents.