DISPOSING OF PILs seeking relief against “excessive” electricity bills during the lockdown period, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday refused to interfere and directed petitioners to exercise an alternative, and approach grievance forums, as per guidelines by Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC). The court also directed electricity providers, including Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL), to act on complaints at the earliest.
A division bench of Justice P B Varale and Justice Milind N Jadhav heard two petitions, including a PIL filed by a Mumbai-based businessman, seeking directions to the state government and electricity providers to reduce power bills for June and to formulate a strategy to avoid charging exorbitant amounts in future, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ravindra M Desai, a 49-year-old businessman from Mulund, filed a plea through advocate Vishal Saxena against the state energy department along with electricity providers, such as MSEDCL, Adani Electricity, Tata Power, among others.
Advocate Deepa Chavan for the state opposed the plea and said under the Electricity Act, a mechanism for redress is available at MSEDCL and MERC, and petitioners can avail it. Chavan said the MSEDCL was already looking into several grievances related to power bills and, in most cases, bill amounts were not erroneous. The state government opposed the pleas and said they were not “maintainable”.
After hearing submissions, the bench led by Justice Varale refused to interfere in the PILs and directed the petitioners to seek an alternative and raise their complaint before grievance forums and directed power utilities, including MSEDCL, to act upon complaints at the earliest. If not addressed, the High Court said petitioners could take further legal recourse and approach appellate authorities and judicial forums.
The court also asked MSEDCL and MERC to ensure that citizens were provided links for online complaints without causing any inconvenience during the lockdown.
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