The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave an ultimatum to the Reliance ADAG-owned discoms BSES to either clear the Rs 690-crore arrears payable to the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) by May 31 or face disconnection of supply.
A bench of Justices S S Nijjar and A K Sikri made it clear to the power distribution companies — BSES Rajdhani and BSES Yamuna — that the court will not hesitate in vacating its stay order that had restrained the NTPC from snapping supply in view of the dues.
“The petitioners (BSES) are directed to make payment as indicated in the documents placed today as per the March 26 order. We make it clear that if the above amount is not paid by May 31, the stay (on disconnection notice by the NTPC) will be vacated,” the bench said. The court also clarified that it was not directing the companies to pay the past dues but the present order was confined only to the period between January and April, 2014.
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“We are directing you only to pay dues for this year. The amount to be paid is like a pinch of salt for you,” observed the court, adding issues relating to the recovery of past dues would be dealt separately.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the ADAG companies, submitted that they lacked the funds to pay the NTPC since the Delhi government and the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) had not paid it Rs 14,000 crore due. He also said the DERC had proposed a roadmap for the payment of dues in a staggered manner over six years, but the BSES wanted the payment to be made in three years.
The NTPC counsel questioned as to why a state-run body should suffer in such a scenario and contended that it will not be in a position to continue supply if the dues were not cleared.
The SC had on March 26 extended its interim order staying the operation of the NTPC notice on disconnection of supply to discoms. The court case signifies an escalating battle over who should shoulder the rising cost of power in the national capital. While the discoms have said they cannot pay the money they owe because the electricity tariffs are kept low and they suffer revenue shortfalls, the NTPC had threatened to snap supply in February over outstanding dues.