The Delhi High Court today stayed operation of the February 12 Delhi Cabinet decision to provide 50% waiver on power arrears of people who did not pay their electricity bills from October 2012 to May 2013.
The Delhi Cabinet had approved as a "new service" the proposal "to provide 50% relief on pending arrears to the tune of Rs 6,821 crore" and to direct finance department to allocate funds for the same as well as to inform the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) of the decision.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice B D Ahmed and Justice S Mridul stayed the Cabinet decision and issued notice to Delhi government directing it to file an affidavit stating its "current stand" before the next date of hearing, March 18. "Notice to respondent 1 (Delhi government). Respondent 1 to file counter affidavit indicating its current stand within 10 days. Meanwhile, there will be stay on decision of February 12, 2014 of Cabinet of National Capital Territory of Delhi," the bench said.
The court also directed the petitioner, advocate Vivek Sharma, to amend his plea by removing former Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia from the list of parties. The court passed the order after perusing an affidavit filed by the government as per the bench's February 19 order and expressed its unhappiness over the contents. "This is no stand. This is the past. This is history. Tell us the present," the bench said.
The bench had on February 19, directed the standing counsel for the Delhi government to seek instructions and file an affidavit indicating the actual position regarding the proposal of the then Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government. The court had passed the order as there was "no clarity" on whether the Delhi cabinet had taken a decision to implement the subsidy as claimed by Sharma.
Pursuant to the high court's February 19 order, the Delhi government today submitted in its affidavit that comments were sought from the Legal, Finance and Planning departments on the proposed waiver as well as withdrawal of theft cases against the defaulters. The legal department had said that such a waiver can only be given prospectively and not retrospectively as per the statute, Electricity Act, 2003, the affidavit said.
It also stated that the planning department had said that the proposed exemption was "not appropriate" as it will be "tantamount to rewarding the defaulters at the cost of honest and regular paying consumers".
The finance department too had objected to the proposed waiver saying "it will give an advantage to the defaulters and disadvantage to the honest payers and thus it will create a bad precedent", the affidavit said.
Sharma, in his plea, has challenged the subsidy given by former AAP government to people who did not pay their power bills from October 2012 to December 2013.