Karachi

Unannounced Load-Shedding: SHC orders Nepra to act against K-Electric

KARACHI: Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday ordered the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) to take action against Karachi’s power utility, K-Electric, under the law.

The court announced its verdict in unannounced power load-shedding case today. The bench on Monday had reserved its verdict on a petition against load-shedding being carried out by the power utility in parts of Karachi.

A division bench of SHC ordered K-Electric to comply the January 22 order of the electric power regulatory authority, in which NEPRA had declared the area-wise load-shedding as unlawful.

The SHC’s two-judge bench, which heard a petition filed by civil society members seeking judicial inquiry into the deaths of as many 1,000 citizens during the heat wave and prolonged power outages in the city in 2015.

The court had last week directed the K-E authorities to appear in person to explain the measures they were adopting to control the unannounced power suspension in the city.

The petitioners said that over 1,000 persons had died and 40,000 others had suffered heat-strokes during the heat wave but, despite several warnings, the federal and provincial governments failed to understand the seriousness of climate change.

They blamed the federal and provincial governments for not declaring a state of emergency until June 23 – when 426 people had already died. The petitioners claimed that K-Electric had failed to provide uninterrupted power supply that could have eased the suffering of the citizens.

Therefore, they had pleaded to the court to constitute a judicial commission, headed by a retired judge of either the high court or Supreme Court, to establish reasons for the deaths and hold the government functionaries responsible for their failure in taking preventive measures.

The court was also requested to ascertain K-E’s role during the heat wave, as it had failed to provide uninterrupted supply of power to citizens. The court asked K-Electric officials about measures taken to cut down the hours of load shedding in the city.

During the hearing, the petitioner’s lawyer, Faisal Siddiqui, said an entire area should not be deprived of electricity if one person defaults on paying the bills. He added that even if it is the matter of theft, the person committing the crime should bear the brunt of the power cuts, not those in the adjoining houses.

He added that K-Electric should provide electricity to the citizens under the national power policy. In 2014, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had ordered the power utility to not cut-off power supply during Ramazan, the lawyer maintained. But regardless, 80 percent of the areas in Karachi were in the dark during sehri on the first day of Ramazan this year.

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