The Madras High Court has upheld the commercial electricity tariff and 20 per cent service charge imposed by Chennai Port Trust (ChPT) on fishing and allied units at the fishing harbour.

The port had originally formed the Chennai Fishing Harbour Managing Committee (CFHMC) for managing fishing boats that used the port. The panel called for applications to establish units for fishing or allied activities in 1986. Later, the harbour’s management was entrusted to ChPT.

The case of the petitioners, Seafarer Fisheries (P) Ltd. and others, who had put up ice factories, was that they were liable to pay only low-tension (LT) tariff consumption charges.

The port said it obtained high-tension (HT) power from the electricity board and distributed it to the ice manufacturing units in LT form. In such a situation, it was collecting the difference in the electricity charges paid to the board under HT tariff, proportionate to the petitioners’ consumption.

Considering various factors, it proposed to collect 20 per cent service charge from port users uniformly, in addition to the bill amount, to ensure there was no loss or gain to it, in this regard.

However, the manufacturing units moved the High Court against the levy of service charge and obtained a stay. As the service charge was not paid, the arrears now amounted to crores. The shifting of LT tariff to commercial tariff had been intimated to petitioners in July last year.

Dismissing the petitions, Justice V. Dhanapalan said when there was a clause in the agreement between the petitioners and the port trust regarding revision of charges from time to time, and also regarding the levy of surcharge or other levies, both Central and State, the petitioners could not stick to the demand that they be charged LT tariff forever.

The port was receiving HT supply and supplying LT power to the petitioners. As the port was incurring extra expenditure on HT tariff, in the court’s considered opinion, the petitioners could not shirk their liability.

Because of the court’s earlier interim order, the petitioners were paying only current consumption charges under the industrial tariff, and not the commercial tariff as imposed by Tangedco.

In this process, the port was incurring heavy losses and the total accumulated dues payable by the petitioners were to the tune of Rs. 5 crore, the court said.

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