Tamil Nadu

Methodology of calculating EB charges is reasonable, rules HC

The Madras High Court on Wednesday dismissed a public interest litigation petition which termed as “unjust and arbitrary”, a methodology adopted by Tamil Nadu generation and distribution corporation (Tangedco) for calculating power consumption charges during the period of COVID-19 lockdown from March 25, when meter readings could not be noted down.

Justices M.M. Sundresh and R. Hemalatha rejected the case filed by M.L. Ravi of Desiya Makkal Sakthi Katchi and held that the methodology was “reasonable and justified”. They agreed with Additional Advocate General P.H. Arvindh Pandian that “any other methodology, especially the one suggested by the petitioner, would not ensure equality.”

Pointing out that individual household meter readings were being recorded bi-monthly in the State, the judges pointed out that Tangedco could not deploy its personnel for noting down meter readings after a nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 25. Hence, it permitted the consumers to pay the same charges that they had paid during the previous billing cycle.

Subsequently, after the relaxation of the lockdown, it deployed its personnel for noting down the meter readings for the next billing cycle. Such readings were divided equally into two and the consumers were asked to pay the necessary charges after deducting the amount they had already paid. The methodology was followed as per Regulation 10(2) of Tamil Nadu Electricity Supply Code.

Holding that the Regulation was in no way contrary to the Electricity Act of 2003, the judges said: “We find that the procedure adopted exhibits an element of fairness. Obviously, one could infer that there has to be an increase in usage of electricity in households during lockdown…The petitioner cannot seek a direction to adopt a particular methodology which is beneficial to one set of consumers.”

Authoring the judgement, Justice Sundresh said there were about 1.75 crore low tension consumers of whom only a few would have any grievance with regard to the methodology adopted. His Bench rejected as unacceptable the petitioner’s contention that Tangedco had made an unjust enrichment through the adoption of a particular methodology. “Such accusations are unwarranted. While the welfare of the general public is important and the difficulties they have undergone due to the pandemic is serious, the role of the government in tackling the crisis and the resources required for the same is not a trivial issue to be brushed aside. The need to pay taxes and other statutory obligations on time becomes paramount,” the court held.

“The method of calculation has to be uniform and acceptable to all and also in tune with the Electricity Supply Code,” the HC said. They pointed out that poor consumers, who consume less than 100 units bi-monthly, were not affected at all since power was provided free of cost to them.

Similarly, the petitioner had accepted that those who consume over 500 units bi-monthly too were not affected in any way. The litigant’s grievance was only with respect to consumers who consume between 200 and 500 units bi-monthly. If those consumers had been allowed to do self assessment of power consumption, it would have resulted in chaos, the court concluded.

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Printable version | Apr 20, 2021 8:02:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/methodology-of-calculating-eb-charges-is-reasonable-rules-hc/article32096180.ece

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