The Gujarat High Court on Friday issued notice returnable within a week on a petition filed by Gujarat Re-Rolling Mills Association seeking waiver of fixed minimum demand electricity charges for the months of May and June, 2020.
The plea drawn by Advocate Arpit R. Singhvi, states that the Distribution Companies are demanding fixed demand electricity charges for the month of May, 2020, despite the lockdown being in force and no business activities having been resumed.
The petitioner is an association of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in Gujarat.
It is submitted that the business activities of the Petitioner came to a halt on March 25, 2020, with the imposition of the nationwide lockdown, and even though such restrictions came to be relaxed from May 18, 2020, the business activities carried out by the Petitioner could not be resumed due to prevalent migrant labour crisis and labour shortage.
"It is submitted that the industries in the petitioner association are MSME's and none of its member industries have been able to resume proper business operations even after relaxation in the restrictions in effect from 18.05.2020," the plea states.
Thus, the Association has sought that the Government order dated March 27, 2020, for waiver of fixed demand electricity charges for the lockdown period during the months of March and April 2020 be extended for the months of May and June.
"Member industries in the Petitioner Association are all MSME's and are facing unprecedented economic and financial crisis at the moment…It is submitted that the fixed demand electricity charges is exorbitant and the Petitioner association comprising of MSME's is unable to bear the high cost of fixed demand electricity charges," the Petitioner has submitted.
It is further submitted that the Petitioner-association has a manpower of more than 10,000 labourers and if the minimum fixed demand charges are not waived, then the MSME's will be constrained to shut operations resulting in loss of livelihood for more than 10,000 labourers.
Hence, the Petitioner has asserted that it is "entitled to carry on free trade and business as per Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution" and "the inaction of the Respondent in waiving the fixed minimum demand electricity charges is arbitrary and violative of the fundamental rights of the Petitioner."
As an interim measure, the Petitioner-Association has prayed the court to restrain the distribution companies from taking any coercive steps against the petitioner including disconnecting their electricity supply, demanding and levying charges and penalties, if any, for the months of May and June 2020.
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