The Brihanmumbai Electricity and Transport Undertaking (BEST) is currently locked in a dispute with the Cuffe Parade Residents Association (CPRA) over more than Rs 15 lakh in unpaid electricity bills for a garden maintained by the Association. While the BEST has acknowledged lapses in its system that resulted in not a single bill being issued to the CPRA since 2007, the association has refused to pay, claiming that it is ensuring coastal security and should not be billed in the first place, and now plans to sue BEST.
The association has been maintaining the garden, also called the Bay View Marina, for the past 15 years, claiming to have saved a dump yard from encroachment and beautifying it at considerable cost.
According to the BEST, an electricity meter was installed in the near 20,000 sqmt garden on April 25, 2007, in response to a request from the CPRA for a load of 10.9 kilo watts. No bills were sent to the CPRA until January 28 this year, when an inspection conducted by the BEST’s Vigilance Department showed a meter recording of 0138169 units, averaging a consumption of 1360 kilowatt-hour a month. A month and half ago, the BEST sent the association a bill for Rs 15,22,268.53.
After getting no response from the association for a month, the BEST gave them a further 15 days to pay the pending dues. That notice period expired on 27th March, following which the BEST disconnected electricity supply to the garden, plunging it into darkness.
An internal probe is now underway at the BEST to establish why bills were not sent to the CPRA for over eight years. “I do agree that BEST should have sent the bills. For that lapse, we are fixing responsibility on the concerned officers. I do not know how it was missed in our system,” said Jagdish Patil, General Manager, BEST.
Patil added, however, that onus also lay on the CPRA to pay its electricity dues. “They (CPRA) fully knew that they were not receiving bills. We had asked them to pay at least 50% of the bill amount, but they did not. We waited one month after issuing the bill and then gave them another 15 days. But after this, we were compelled to disconnect their connection. We will take all action provided in the law but will recover the dues,” he said.
CPRA President Ashok Kanwar countered saying that the association should not have to pay to illuminate the garden. “This is a public garden and we have been using electricity for security purposes. This is the area where (Ajmal) Kasab and his fellow terrorists entered Mumbai in November 2008. We are doing a public service,” he said.
Kanwar also added that it was impossible for the association to cough up Rs. 15 lakh at such short notice to pay the BEST. “For eight years, they haven’t sent us any bills. How do they expect us to pay a consolidated bill in one week’s time? We will sue them and at
the same time make alternative arrangements so that the garden is lit in two days’ time,” Kanwar said.