APTEL Tries To Put a Lid On Issue of Fixed Charges During Covid Lockdown

Highlights :

  • While abatement of fixed charges was provided in most states, it was limited for the period till June end. As lockdowns extended beyond that period, many Industry bodies have been clamouring for relief for the remaining period.
  • Considering the fact that fixed charges are a real cost for cash strapped discoms too, an easy solution was never going to be easy.

In an order brought about after a petition by the Rajasthan textile association versus various state discoms of Rajasthan and the Rajasthan State Regulatory commission (RERC), the Appellate Tribunal for electricity (APTEL) has sought to put at rest claims for a waiver of fixed charges imposed on power consumers through the lockdown last year. While some exemptions were provided by various state government’s from time to time, the formal demand for a full waiver was winding through APTEL in this case. In other states too, notably West Bengal the same issue has been raised, including a demand for seeing this as a force majeure event.

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The Issue

In their prayer that first went to the state regulator RERC, the association had submitted that on account of the pandemic conditions due to spread of Corona Virus in the country from March 2020 onwards, and consequent lockdown imposed by governmental authorities invoking the provisions of Disaster Management Act, the industrial activity having come to a halt, the appellants – large industrial consumers taking supply of electricity from the Respondent Distribution Licensee (the first Respondent) – were prevented from using the supply and, therefore, should have been exempted from the levy of fixed charges in the periodical billing.

The state commission (RERC), while appreciating the background facts, has not granted any relief to the appellants observing that the Terms and Conditions of Supply (“TCOS”) which apply to the contracts between each appellant, on one hand, and the Distribution Licensee, on the other, should be strictly followed. Relief had been provided till 30.06.2020 actually.

APTEL View

APTEL asserted that the issue is a lot more nuanced, and a general order cannot be passed, even as it strives to balance the interests of consumers and producers. It advised the petitioners to approach the consumer grievance  forum accordingly, reminding them that the same has been established by an act of law and operates independently.

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Prasanna Singh

Prasanna has been a media professional for over 20 years. He is the Group Editor of Saur Energy International

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