A petition, which challenges the decision of cash-strapped Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking to levy an additional charge in the form of Transport Deficit and Loss Recovery (TDLR) on power consumers in the island city, will be finally heard by the Bombay High Court on June 18.
Balkrishna Shetty, a Byculla resident, has alleged in his petition that the authority is charging only one section of consumers, comprising merely 15 per cent of the total metropolitan population, as they live in areas where power is being supplied by BEST. This, the petitioner said, is a clear violation of the Right to Equality.
Since 2012, the BEST started levying an additional TDLR in the power bill, on the power consumers of island city, earning around Rs 60 crore a month from this charge.
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“TDLR is a charge selectively imposed to consumers of island city, which is Colaba to Mahim and Sion. The other 85 per cent of the consumers, who utilise BEST services live from Bandra to Dahisar, do not pay TDLR,” argued the PIL saying the BEST’s move was “arbitrary”.
Shetty also claimed that power consumers who happen to shop owners and have commercial power connections are paying steep rates at Rs 14 to Rs 20 per unit. “Shops or firms do not travel by the BEST buses, but the owners are being charged TDLR,” he alleged.
Questioning BEST, Shetty in a subsequent affidavit, said the state government and local bodies had an outstanding of Rs 19.28 crore in unpaid electricity bills to BEST.
The petitioner also contended that the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission “did not” have any authority or mandate to direct BEST to impose TDLR on power consumers of the island city on account of transport loss. The reason was that the Electricity Act, 2003 “nowhere” mentioned that it had powers to impose TDLR on BEST electricity consumers, claimed Shetty.
He, therefore, sought directions from the court for an audit from the Comptroller and Auditor General of India to look into the finances of BEST from 2003-04 and 2011-2012. The civic body’s chief auditor has already admitted to discrepancies of Rs 250 for the years 2011-2012, and not responded to inconsistencies of earlier years, claimed Shetty.