Controversial taxes in power bills: Secretary, Nepra chief put on notice
PESHAWAR, Dec 5: The Peshawar High Court on Wednesday issued show cause notices to federal secretary of water and power and chairman of National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra), directing them to appear in person and explain why they had not been filing reply to around 80 writ petitions challenging levy of some ‘controversial’ taxes in the electricity bills of consumers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
A two-member bench comprising Justice Mian Fasihul Mulk and Justice Shahjehan Khan Akhundzada also extended a stay order earlier issued by it restraining Peshawar Electric Company Limited (Pesco) from recovering the fuel adjustment charge (FAC)/fuel price adjustment (FPA) or any arrear on that account from the electricity consumers in the province.
During previous hearing of these cases on Sept 18, the bench had taken exception to continuous non-appearance of senior lawyer Khwaja Tariq Raheem, representing the federal government, and issued last warning to him.
The bench had ordered that if the counsel could not turn up on next date his right of hearing would be forfeited and the bench would decide the cases in his absence on merit.
When the bench on Wednesday took up for hearing the petitions, filed by several industrial units and other entities, the petitioners counsel Shumail Ahmad Butt pointed out that this was the sixth time that Mr Raheem had failed to turn up.
He added that Mr Raheem had only informed the court through a faxed power of attorney that he had been appointed a counsel in those cases and since then he had not been taking interest in the cases despite repeated court notices.
Mr Butt argued that so far replies had not been filed on behalf of federal government and Nepra. He contended that while on some of occasions the counsel appearing for Pesco requested the court to vacate the stay order as the company had been suffering losses of billions of rupees, the fact was that it was collecting the controversial taxes on behalf of the federal government.
He requested the bench that unless the secretary water and power, Ms Nargis Sethi, and Nepra chairman had been summoned in person and issued show cause notices they would not submit replies in the cases.
The legal adviser of Nepra, Mohammad Shafiq, requested the bench not to summon the chairman in person and counsel would appear on next date.
Justice Mian Fasihul Mulk observed that the chairman was not above the law and he should appear in person and explain his position.
Mr Butt pointed out that the chairman was also charged in a contempt of court case as he had violated an earlier order of the high court. He stated that in a suo motu case wherein the chief justice had taken notice of excessive loadshedding, a bench had on Jun 30, 2011, ordered Nepra that under the Constitution it could only determine electricity tariff for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa if the provincial government gave them written permission in this regard.
He added that contrary to court order few weeks ago Nepra conducted public hearing in Peshawar while no written permission was given to it by the provincial government.
The bench decided to issue the chairman a show cause notice in that case also directing him to explain his position.
Mr Butt requested the bench to extend the restraining order, initially issued on Feb 28, and stop Pesco from recovery of controversial taxes.
These petitioners have also challenged an order of Nepra issued on Sept 19, 2011, in an identical matter which was earlier challenged before the high court by an organisation, Human Rights Commission South Asia, but it was referred to Nepra last year. The Nepra had declared the levy of FAS/FPA as legal and in accordance with law.