In between complaints from several electricity consumers in Tamil Nadu about exorbitant bill amounts, the Madras High Court has given a clean chit to Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (TANGEDCO) on the billing mechanism adopted by it during the pandemic.
A bench comprising Justices M M Sudresh and R Hemalatha upheld the modality adopted by the state-owned power distributor TANGEDCO for calculation of electricity charges for domestic users during the lockdown period when the bi- monthly reading could not be taken. The order was passed while dismissing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) which alleged the TANGEDCO was using arbitrary and unjust methodology for calculating the power bills.
The necessity to divide the four months readings (since the lockdown in March) into two bi-monthly billing was essential. Average consumption for the periods was taken and the calculation made based on this.
"Looking from any perspective, we do not find any valid reason to find the impugned order as arbitrary. It is sound in reasoning and has benefited the consumers. The Public Interest Litigation has no merits and is dismissed," the bench said. However, in case of any alleged irregularity leading to higher charges, the consumer can always work out the remedy in the manner known to law, it added.
Petitioner M L Ravi had submitted that TANGEDCO has relied on the previous month bill amount to arrive at the present payable instead of considering the previous month units consumed. This resulted in low tension domestic consumers having to pay 12 per cent to 50 per cent higher charges than that is permissible under the Tamil Nadu Electricity Supply Code. Such method adopted by the corporation has affected 96 per cent of domestic consumers who have been forced to pay up to 50 per cent higher charges, he had contended.
There have been complaints from consumers that since electricity meter reading could not be taken since the COVID- 19 lockdown came into force on March 24, consumers using 100 to 500 units in a billing cycle have to shell out more money.
The TANGEDCO had submitted that the higher power charges were on account of increased consumption as people spent more time in homes due to the lockdown.