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HC dismisses case seeking extension of last date to settle power bills

The Madras High Court on Thursday rejected a plea for extending the last date for settling power bills after Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (Tangedco) claimed that repeated extensions will affect cash flow and have a cascading effect of curtailment of power supply since the corporation is already facing a “severe financial crisis.”

Justices R. Subbiah and Krishnan Ramasamy were told by Additional Advocate General P.H. Arvindh Pandian that the Tangedco had always come to the rescue of power consumers in the State during calamities such as Gaja cyclone as well as the present challenges posed by COVID-19 and extended the last date for payment of charges.

However, opposing a plea made by advocate C. Rajashekaran for extending up to July 31 the charges meant to be paid since March this year, the AAG said, the demand for electricity itself had gone down from 16,000 MW to 10,000 MW in the State, in view of the lockdown to fight COVID-19. It had led to a stoppage of power generation in many stations.

Further, “the agreed upon power purchases from various sources had also been put on hold in order to avoid injection of electricity duly keeping in mind the grid stability. However, for this, Tangedco has still been incurring fixed costs and such other expenditure incidental to it besides possible claims from certain class of stakeholders at a later date,” a counter filed by the Tangedco read.

Providing exact figures, the AAG told the court that there were 1.35 crore Low Tension consumers in the State, only 8.45 lakh (6.25%) were yet to settle the power bills amounting to ₹343.37 crore payable in April this year. Similarly, 12.94 lakh (9.5%) were yet to pay ₹287.94 crore due in May and 18.44 lakh (13.62%) were yet to pay ₹478.36 crore due in June.

Therefore, major portion of the LT consumers have availed the benefit of time extension already and they have also been remitting the current consumption bills to Tangedco which had been maintaining and operating its distribution system round-the-clock despite the lockdown and was also under the obligation of paying salaries and incurring fixed costs, he said.

On the other hand, the petitioner’s counsel G. Rajesh and Y. Kavitha insisted that the last date should be extended for micro, small and medium enterprises too. After hearing all of them, the judges said that they did not find any need to keep the case pending since the Tangedco had decided not to take coercive action in places where intense lockdown was in force.

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