Notice of motion issued by HC in PIL regarding erratic power supply


IMPHAL, Jan 20: A division bench of Gauhati High Court, Imphal Bench, comprising of Justice B.K. Sharma and Justice Asok Potsangbam has today issued a notice of motion returnable within 4 weeks with regard to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed against the erratic electric power supply in Manipur.
A release of Human Rights Law Network, Manipur, stated that the PIL was filed jointly by Prof. Amar Yumnam of Economics Department, Manipur University, Dr. Angomcha Bimol Akoijam, associate professor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and Pradip Phanjoubam, editor of Imphal Free Press, under the initiative of advocate Meihoubam Rakesh, director of HRLN, Imphal.
In the said PIL,  the petitioners contended that the bonafide consumers of electric power in the state of Manipur get only about 3 to 4 hours of power supply in a day while its neighboring states like Mizoram, Nagaland and Assam get 24 hours of uninterrupted power supply. They further maintained that considering the peak hour requirement of 170/180 MW, the State could afford to purchase only about 90 MW from power stations like NEEPCO and NHPC, out of which 80 percent are lost every month due to power theft and tripping.
The electricity department of the State spends Rs 11.5 crore every month in purchasing power, however, it could collect only Rs 1.5 crore from consumers, due to systemic failure and widespread corruption in the Electricity Department, the petitioners stated in the PIL.
Although Manipur has hydro power potential of 2000 MW, at the moment the power sector of the state is by and large “powerless” to meet even domestic requirement of around 1,74,127 consumers (all inclusive). The licensee so far utilized only 5%. Tapping of 60% of the potential will serve all purposes including earning handsome revenue. The state purchases 438 MV from NEEPCO and NHPC (central undertakings) in 2005-06. The gap between demand and supply remains constant in spite of so-called attempt of 3918 existing staff of the licensee. In 2003-04, the gap was highest with 48% followed by 39% in 2005-06. The level of power consumption is fairly low. The per capita power consumption is only 146 KWH in 2004-05 while the All India Average is 354 KWH, and while that of Daman and Diu is 2335 KWH, that of Goa is 724 KWH, that of Pondicherry 867 KWH and that of Delhi 577 KWH (1996-97). At present the Electricity Department did not take up appropriate steps to recover arrear of electric bills from the defaulter and disconnect the defaulters in accordance with the procedure established by law. Instead, the licensee has been subsidizing the defaulters and penalizing the regular payees by subjecting both to equal access and equal darkness. Such act of licensee implies absence of regulatory mechanism and absolute lack of governance. This lack of exercise of regulation and absence of governance being converted to a cost to the State economy by charging from tne State Budget as whopping sum of Rs. 10, 00,000,00/- (Rupees ten crore) or more each month as only Rs. 1,00,000,00/- (Rs. 1 crore) are recovered each month by way of user charges out of the total monthly dues of Rs. 11,00,000,00/- (Rupees eleven crore) or more. In other words, the State exchequer suffers a cost of Rs. 10,00,000,00/-(Rupees ten crore) per month as premium payments to cover the inefficiency in power administration by the government.
The right to access to reliable and safe electric power is fundamental to life in modern times and there is duty on the State under Article 21 of the Constitution of India to provide reliable, safe and uninterrupted electric power to its citizens and as such failure to provide reliable electric power to bonafide consumers is violative of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
The prayers made in the said PIL includes direction for providing reliable, safe and uninterrupted electric power to all bonafide consumers of Manipur within a specific period of time; in the interim to issue an appropriate direction for providing at least reliable, safe and uninterrupted electric power for 8 hours in a day to all bonafide electric power consumers of Manipur; to issue an appropriate direction to comply with the obligations imposed by the Joint Electricity Regulatory Commission for Manipur and Mizoram so as to provide reliable electricity – reliable in terms of both quality and quantity to the bonafide consumers of Manipur; and to issue a direction to submit progress report of its endeavour for achieving desired standards of performance periodically before the Hon`ble High Court and to issue appropriate directions after perusal of the report, in order to have a completely reliable, safe and uninterrupted electric power supply.

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