Government has withdrawn the notification on hike in the power tariff. Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has remarked hike in power tariff is robbery on the pockets of the poor people which can not be allowed.

He gave these remarks while presiding over a 3-member bench of Supreme Court (SC) during the course of hearing of electricity load shedding case  here Friday.

CJP remarked “ the price of wheat flour can  go up by Rs 20 to Rs 30 per bag due to increase in power tariff. The situation is this that permission was accorded to install 27  CNG stations at a distance of 13 kilometer. Government can not interfere in the matters of NEPRA in terms of fixation of prices. Any notification issued without the direction of NEPRA has no legal and constitutional status.

At the inception of hearing of the case Attorney General (AG) Munir A Malik, Khawaja and others appeared in the court. AG told the court federal government has filed its reply.

CJP remarked “ please send us summary. Court  is not initiating proceedings against the government but it is only holding inquiry. This case is pending hearing since the last several years. Under what powers the prices have been jacked up. Tell us under  section 31 and 31 (4) that  how can you increase the prices while NEPRA has heard the objections.

Chairman NEPRA told he does not know the methodology for fixing the prices.

CJP remarked “ you have provided gas on subsidized rates to the industries. If you generate the electricity on gas then the electricity  will be cheaper and if it is generated on petrol it will be costlier. Power theft is not being plugged. Oil agent is sitting abroad. How are you doing all this.

AG said government would send the case again to OGRA for reviewing and fixation of prices afresh.

CJP inquired how are you supplying gas at subsidized rates. The court was told it was being provided to some institutions.

CJP remarked “all the cement is going to Afghanistan and Iran. Farmer is selling wheat at the rate of Rs 1300 per maund at present. Flour mills meeting is going to  held on Monday to determine the price of 20 kilogram wheat flour bag. You increased the power tariff and the price of 20 kilogram atta bag will increase.

CJP remarked “ you have issued notification without the directives of NEPRA. What is constitutional position of it. This has been asked from AG  what will be its consequences if you withdraw the notification. Chairman NEPRA told us that  they have notified every thing with regard to the tariff and the remaining job has to be done by the government. But government is saying it will request the NEPRA for fixation of prices afresh. If notification is withdrawn and revised notification will come then matter can go complicated.

CJP remarked “ whatever illegal is taken every penny  of it will go out of  the pocket of the poor . We have not pursued the policy of making recoveries from the defaulters. About  10 to 12 institutions are such that Rs 441 billions have to be recovered from them. They use electricity but don’t make any payment and the entire burden is shifted to the poor. Law says catch the rich and leave the poor but the situation prevailing here is this that we are catching the poor and leaving the rich.

AG said “ NEPRA will ensure the recovery from the defaulters when it will determine the prices afresh.

CJP remarked ‘ kunda system also comes under line losses. The court was told line losses are running 50 percent.

Justice Jawwad remarked “ the government and judiciary has one and the same objective that how the electricity can be provided to the people at subsidized rates.

CJP remarked people have pinned a lot of hopes on the new government  Give them relief. After coming to power you are pursuing a different stance than what you had pursued when you were in opposition.

CJP remarked “ you will have to withdraw the notification.

AG said “ new tariff will be applicable from October, 1, 2013. Government will provide subsidy and government will give guideline on this count. In the meantime government will withdraw notification issued on September, 30, 2013.

The court said that on the statement given by the government the hearing of the case is adjourned till such time government does not  take final decision and issue notification. Court said how much time NEPRA will take. NEPRA told it will do it in two or three weeks.

The court adjourned the hearing of the case for indefinite period.