‘Electricity tariff for places of worship can’t be determined based on caste differences’

Tamil Nadu Electricity Ombudsman makes observation in a case relating to the determination of tariff for the Pachaiamman Temple

Published - April 01, 2021 01:13 am IST - Chennai

Government officials cannot determine applicable electricity tariff for a place of worship based on caste differences in society, the Tamil Nadu Electricity Ombudsman said.

It made the observation in a case relating to the determination of tariff for the Pachaiamman Temple built on private land in Gobichettipalayam.

M. Guruswamy, a representative of the temple, had sought for a change in tariff from the Tariff V category to Tariff II-C, which was rejected by the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (Tangedco). He moved Tangedco’s Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum (CGRF), Gobichettipalayam Electricity Distribution Circle, which had ruled in favour of Tangedco.

The CGRF ruled that the temple’s deity was considered the family deity of the Vanniyakula Kshatriya community and was worshipped by a particular community.

As per the tariff order issued by the Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission (TNERC) in 2005, in respect of places of worship in plantation colonies, the change of tariff from LT-V to LT II-C would be given wherever there were no restrictions for entry to the public, it noted and rejected Mr. Guruswamy’s appeal. Against this ruling, he moved an appeal petition before the Electricity Ombudsman.

In his appeal, Mr. Guruswamy noted that the TNERC order only stated that the tariff was applicable to the actual place of public worship and did not differentiate between whether the place was on government land or private land.

He also pointed out that though the temple was a family deity for a particular community, it did not prevent people from other communities from entering the temple.

All Hindu temples in Tamil Nadu were considered a family deity for a particular community and if this was taken into account, the LT II-C tariff should not be applicable to any temple, Mr. Guruswamy argued.

S. Devarajan, Electricity Ombudsman, noted that as per the TNERC’s tariff order in 2017, the Tariff II-C was applicable to actual places of public worship, including the Trichy Rock fort temple, and the existing concessions to the actual places of worship as notified by Tamil Nadu government having an income of less than ₹1,000 should be continued under the same terms and conditions, until further order from the Commission.

And 2005 tariff order has stated that the II-C tariff could be levied on places of worship where there were no restrictions for entry to public, he noted.

He ruled the tariff for the Pachaiamman Temple could be changed to II-C tariff.

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