Two public interest litigations have been filed before the Bombay High Court seeking relief from the inflated and unrealistic electricity bills as several consumers in the State have complained about receiving exorbitant bills specially between the March and May period during the lockdown.
The two petitioners are 62-year-old Mahibub Shaikh from Sholapur and 49-year-old Ravindra Desai from Mumbai. While Shaikh is editor of a regional newspaper "Bandhuprem" in Solapur and has been a social worker for last 35 years, Desai is a businessman from Mulund.
Shaikh's PIL states-
"The Petitioner and other similarly placed consumers across the State have been complaining about the unrealistic inflated bills by State discoms as well as private discoms (Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL), Adani Electricity Mumbai Limited (AMEL) and Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) etc. Although it is not disputed that the consumers were expecting some hikes in the month of April and May, keeping in mind the use of AC's in summer and work from home due to lockdown, many of them are shocked and are agitating over abnormally high bills."
Whereas, Desai contended that the electricity bill received by him for the month of June is 10 times higher than the usual consumption. He feared that power service providing companies may adopt coercive measures such as slapping of late charges to recover outstanding amounts.
In Mumbai, citizens are not allowed to go beyond the radius of 2 kms except for valid reasons, this will also harm their businesses, Desai contended in his PIL.
Moreover, the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) has purportedly increased power tariff for all the slabs and categories, Shaikh's PIL argues. It states-
"This increase of Tariff in the midst of an unprecedented situation has burnt a hole in the pockets of middle class and lower middle class persons. The decision of the State to implement the higher charges in the midst of the pandemic and lockdown does not benefit the consumers in any manner particularly most of the citizens have been facing several difficulties due to the imposition of lockdown. The aforesaid rise in tariff is arbitrary, unreasonable and detrimental to the interest of several lakhs of the citizens who are suffering."
Thus, Desai sought directions for reduction in electricity bill for the month of June and directions for formulation of a strategy to avoid excess electricity bills in the future till the situation is back to normal.
Whereas, Shaikh sought directions to roll back/defer the revised tariff and continue charging as per the tariff existed prior to April 1, 2020, and extension of the benefit of exemption/waiver of fixed charges/minimum demand, wheeling charges, energy charges, fuel adjustment charges, electricity duty, etc. and other charges and taxes on electricity for a period of six months or as the period as the Court may deem fit.
Several netizens and bollywood celebrities complained on social media recently about the exorbitant electricity bills they received during the lockdown period. Responding to this, State Energy Minister Nitin Raut informed citizens that consumers will get the option of paying the bill in three instalments and those who pay the bill for June in a lump sum will get a discount of 2%.
Both the matters are likely to be heard together in due course.
Advocate Vishal Saxena filed the PIL on behalf of Desai and Advocates Ranjit Shinde, Rajesh Inamdar and Kalyani Tulankar are appearing on behalf of Shaikh.