The state electricity regulator dismissed a petition by a Matheran businessman seeking compensation from the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd (MSEDCL) for his grandfather’s contribution in electrifying the hill station, and a 75 per cent concession in electricity bills.
The businessman, 53-year-old Ali Akbar Adamjee Peerbhoy, decided to seek Rs 1.39 lakh royalty for his grandfather’s expenditure in lighting up Matheran several decades ago after his own electricity connection was disconnected last year owing to non-payment of dues.
In his petition to Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC), he had also sought for directions to be issued to MSEDCL to not cut power supply to his Matheran bungalow and hotel, saying his grandfather was instrumental in opening up the hill station, then mostly occupied by the British, to Indians.
While dismissing the petition for subsidy for being “not maintainable before the commission,” the regulator also struck down Peerbhoy’s second request, saying the Electricity Act provides for MSEDCL to take action in case of failure to pay electricity bills.
“The Commission has no role and cannot adjudicate upon any claim for royalty on account of historical contributions to the development of Matheran. Electricity tariffs are determined by the commission under the provisions of the Electricity Act, 2003, and whether or not subsidy against such tariffs can or should be provided is to be decided by the state government,” the MERC said in its order signed by chairperson Chandra Iyengar and commission members Deepak Lad and Azeez Khan.
In the early 1900s, Matheran used to be lit up in the evenings through kerosene lanterns that flickered along the narrow mud tracks. Philanthropist Abdul Hussein Adamjee Peerbhoy had proposed a scheme to electrify Matheran, getting the sanctions to supply power at a price of roughly 2 annas a unit. The reformist is also credited with having started the popular Neral-Matheran railway.
Before approaching the MERC, Ali Akbar Peerbhoy had in September last year also approached the MSEDCL’s internal grievance redressal cell seeking concession in power tariff after the power distribution company discontinued electricity supply to his house. Peerbhoy had not paid electricity bills pending from November 2013 amounting to Rs 5,160, which he cleared two days after disconnection of power supply.
However, the grievance redressal cell had also rejected Peerbhoy’s claim, saying that power supply is liable to be disconnected if the consumer does not pay electricity bills and arrears. Despite repeated attempts to contact him, Peerbhoy was unavailable for comment.