ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Thursday sought a written reply from the Ministry of Water and Power regarding the non-payment of funds to the Independent Power Producers (IPPs).

A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, heard the petition, moved by eight IPPs against the government, praying that the government had failed to pay them the dues worth Rs 61.401 billion during the last couple of months, which worsened the power crisis in the country.

Khalid Anwar, the counsel for IPPs, argued the government had acknowledged that the circular debt exceeded to Rs 400 billion.

He said if the government would not pay funds to the power producers there would be three hours 20 minutes more the loadshedding daily in the country, as he warned that the circular debt was on the rise. He demanded the court to order the government to pay dues to the IPPs.

Khawaja Tariq Rahim representing Ministry of Water and Power said it was a responsibility of the government to provide electricity to the consumers.

He informed the bench that on the direction of the court, the government had decided to pay Rs 45 billion to the power producers. He further said Rs 8 billion were paid in July, while Rs 8 billion would be paid by August 30 and another Rs8 billion on September 30.

“The schedule for payment of rest of the amount, Rs21 billion is being prepared,” he added. The learned counsel also said that a committee had been constituted - comprising the secretaries of water and power, finance and planning commission - for the full payments of dues.

The chief justice said why they should give order for the payment of dues, adding they also had to keep in mind the government’s constraints. He added that the ECC was an independent institution and, therefore, there was no need for directives.

The chief justice said citizens across the country protested against loadshedding, but how the electricity would be generated when there was power theft and people were not paying their bills.

The chief justice said due to the power outage, people were living in a sense of uncertainty, as he asked the counsel for Water and Power Ministry to devise an effective mechanism for the payment of electricity bills.

On a query, Khawaja Tariq told the bench that the payments were made to the private power companies under Purchase Act and fines were imposed on delays.

Adjourning the case, the chief justice asked the Water and Power Ministry and the representative of the IPPs to devise a strategy to control power theft.