The Allahabad High Court has held that 24-hour power supply to certain districts and cities in the state because of VVIPs and protocol was arbitrary,illegal and illogical.
The court has directed that the residents of all cities be forthwith provided power supply in an equitable manner. It,however,said that classification on the basis of industrial,agricultural and commercial categories can continue.
Round-the-clock power supply to the Taj Trapezium Zone (Agra,Ferozabad,Mathura,Hathras and some parts of Etah),as ordered by the Supreme Court for protection of historical monuments,will continue,the court added.
The state government,through the Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Limited (UPPCL),had provided for 24-hour power supply in Etawah,Mainpuri,Kannauj,Rampur,Sambhal,Rae Bareli and Amethi districts.
Almost all these places are constituencies of top leaders in state and national politics including Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav,Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadavs wife Dimple Yadav,SP leader Azam Khan,Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
Terming the stand taken by the state government and the UPPCL as shocking,the court said that discrimination on the basis of merely the place of residence was violative of Article 14 of the Constitution (equality before law). It added that electricity was not a luxury,but material resources of a community,which needs to be equitably distributed.
Passing the order in a chamber on Friday,a division bench of Justices Sudhir Agarwal and Sunita Agarwal said: The state,under Article 12 (of the Constitution),is under statutory obligation to equitably distribute material resources available to it. If there is a rational classification,the distinction may be made,but the reason assigned herein cannot be termed as rational or logical. We strongly disapprove,discard and condemn this kind of approach on the part of the respondents. It cannot have sanction of law.
The issue of 24-hour power supply to certain cities came up when the court took up two petitions filed by owners of cold storages - M/S Mahashakti Cold Storage and M/S Jamuna Ram Cold Storage and nine others - from Ghazipur district.
The petitioners said that their cold storages were getting power for just a few hours each day while some cold storages in certain cities were getting 24-hour power supply because of the UPPCLs arrangement.
Even though the petitioners had only wanted relief for their cold storages,the court treated the petitions as public interest litigation,saying: This court cannot shut its eyes to perpetuate discrimination to the public at large and confine its judicial approach to wealthy industrial people. The large number of helpless residents of this state cannot be left in the lurch and and at the whimsical arbitrary mercy of state and its instrumentality.
The court directed that the cold storages of the petitioners be provided at least 16 to 18 hours of power through independent feeders.
The court also went on to illustrate how residents being denied 24-hour power supply were actually ending up paying more,in terms of rate per unit,than those getting round-the-clock supply.
The court came down heavily on UPPCL and the state government for not being able to explain VVIP and protocol. The court said there was no term as VVIP in the English dictionary; the only term being VIP.
We also enquired whether there is no other city or district in the state of UP,where the so-called ‘VVIPs or protocol or equivalent thereto visit or stay or reside so as to justify similar treatment. On this aspect also,both (counsel of the respondents) kept silence. Their predicament is quite apparent and understandable. Silence speaks volumes, the court said.
The state government and the UPPCL had argued that all cities in the state could not be given 24-hour supply due to scarcity vis-à-vis high demand. They had justified continuous supply to the VVIP districts,saying it was being done keeping in view the importance of the areas and the requirement of those places such as protocol and security of VVIPs during their declared or undeclared visits.