Dismissing a proposal to let them hike the power tariff by 63 paise per unit in Delhi, the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the Reliance ADAG-owned discoms BSES to “immediately” clear the Rs 161-crore arrears payable to power generation and transmission companies by July 15 or face disconnection of supply.
“Surcharge additional cannot be allowed right now… we will not deal with it like this. That you will have to resolve with the regulatory commission. All issues will be examined only after you make the payment of current dues. You cannot hold back the payment and be in arrears after arrears,” a bench led by Chief Justice R M Lodha said.
Setting a deadline of July 15, the bench, also comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, asked the BSES Yamuna to clear outstanding dues to power generating companies — Indraprastha Power Generation Co Ltd, Delhi Transco Ltd, Pragati Power Corp Ltd — and Bawana Power Plant for the period between January and June this year.
The collective outstanding dues to these four companies is Rs 257 crore. But BYPL claimed that they had a subsidy of Rs 96 crore and, therefore, the dues totalled up to Rs 161 crore. Delhi Transo has, however, objected to the subsidy and the court has left this and all other contentions regarding the calculation open for adjudication.
“They are not baniya (petty) shops. They have to be paid if you want them to continue power supply. Our order was passed in March but you have still not paid. it is surprising. You have been in arrears repeatedly and the only explanation can be offered through making payments,” the court said, adding that all subsequent bills must also be cleared on a monthly basis till the issue was finally decided.
Appearing for BSES, senior advocate K V Vishwanathan sought to convince the bench that a tariff hike of 63 paise per unit was inevitable since the discoms could then recover the carrying cost of Rs 663 crore, to bring down their liability. He complained that the regulatory assets worth thousands of crore also required to be liquidated to maintain the financial health of the discoms, which were now facing difficulties in getting loans from the bank.
The bench retorted: “We are not managing your bank accounts. Do you want this court to interfere between you and your banks too? That is not going to happen. These companies are generating power and not money. We are currently concerned only with the running bills and you must pay it.”
The court had on March 26 extended its interim order, staying the operation of the National Thermal Power Corporation notice on disconnection of supply to discoms. The court then gave an ultimatum to the discoms to clear the dues for continued supply.