SC overturns LHC ruling on electricity surcharges

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ISLAMABAD: Supreme Court of Pakistan on Monday suspended the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) May 29 verdict against electricity surcharges.
It its order, the high court had declared the imposition of different surcharges on electricity bills as unconstitutional and illegal. The surcharges were imposed by the government under Section 31 (5) of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) Act, 1997. The high court also ordered the government to develop a mechanism to repay collected surcharges to the consumers within three months.
On Saturday, the Ministry of Water and Power challenged the decision in the apex court under Article 185 (3).
A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk heard the government s appeal today.
During case proceedings, Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt told court that surcharges on electricity bills were challenged in Balochistan and Sindh high courts as well but both courts had rejected the petitions.
Justice Amir Hani Muslim asked when Neelam Jhelum surcharge was included in the bills.
The AG replied that government is collecting Equalisation Surcharge, Debt Servicing Surcharge and Neelam Jhelum Surcharge and these were not imposed by the National Electric Power Regulatory (NEPRA) authority. He said recovery of Neelam Jhelum Surcharge started in 2008 due to Ghazi-Barotha Dam project.
Khawaja Farooq, a counsel for a private company, argued that recovery of surcharges from power consumers started since 2008 but notification was released in 2014. Even the Parliament was not taken into confidence on this matter whereas tax cannot be collected without approval of the upper house.
Attorney General Salman Aslam told court that surcharge collection is in accordance with Nepra’s regulations and no law is being violated.
Meanwhile, the apex court suspended the LHC order and adjourned the case hearing for indefinite period of time. 

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