Kejriwal’s power sop tripped by fund shock

By on March 19, 2014

No funds allotted for AAP’s big move to subsidise participants in bijli satyagraha.

NEW DELHI: It’s the lie in the Aam Aadmi Party satyagraha, and it’s been nailed in the Delhi High Court. The Delhi government on Tuesday told the high court that the AAP government did not allocate any funds to finance the Rs 6 crore subsidy that it had announced for those who did not pay their electricity bills from October 2012 to May 2013. The lack of funds means no one will benefit from the scheme.

Don’t pay your electricity bills, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal had told Delhi’s power consumers as he went about climbing electric poles and getting his pictures taken restoring power connections last year. Over 24,000 didn’t, between October 2012 and December 2013. Then Kejriwal came to power.

In February this year, AAP had announced a reward for these power bill defaulters, declaring that those who did not pay their power bills between October 2012 and April 2013 will have to pay only half the amount.

This scheme was to benefit those who had supported the Aam Aadmi Party’s Bijli Satyagraha, a campaign against allegedly inflated electricity bills. The AAP decision was meant to benefit 24,036 people across the capital.

On Tuesday, the counsel for the state submitted an affidavit before a division bench of the high court comprising acting Chief Justice B. D. Ahmed and Justice Sidharth Mridul that former chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s decision to offer 50 per cent waiver on power arrears for people who did not pay their bills from October 2012 to December 2013 cannot be implemented due to non- allocation of funds for the same in the budget for 2013- 14.

Taking into note the above submission, the High Court continued its stay on AAP’s decision to give 50 per cent waiver on pending electricity bills of 24,036 consumers. The Court has fixed the matter for final hearing on May 22 this year.
Filing the affidavit on behalf of the Delhi government, Madhu Sudan, deputy secretary of power, told the court, “The competent authority of the government had not made any provision in the budget for release of funds for the purpose and in the absence of the availability of funds, therefore, in the present circumstances, it is not possible to implement the decision of the cabinet for providing relief to the electricity consumers who stopped paying their bills anytime between October 2012 and May 2013 till December 2013.”

The bench was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Vivek Narayan Sharma, who also sought quashing the Delhi government’s decision to close power theft cases registered against 2,508 consumers last year. The plea said that such an action of the government was like “sponsoring and abetting criminal or terrorism acts and acts against rule of law and constitution.”

Power tariff in Delhi was a prominent campaign issue for AAP in the run up to the Delhi Assembly elections with Kejriwal promising he would slash power tariffs by 50 per cent after being voted to power. After coming to power, the AAP government has come down heavily on power discoms in Delhi, seeking a CAG audit of their accounts.

As per the PIL in the Court, the waiver would have imposed a burden of Rs 6 crore on the state exchequer.

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