KARACHI: K-Electric appears in ‘no-compromise’ mood to squeeze the neck further of its already power-hit consumers as country’s biggest vertically integrated utility has set up a court for special magistrate in its premises to recover outstanding bills under what the law experts termed controversial Section 54-A of the Electricity Act 1910.

Sources on Tuesday said that the power company is facilitating a ‘special magistrate assistant controller Grade-1’ to recover electricity charges from its users on account of arrears as land revenue under Sindh Land Revenue Act 1967.

The power utility has set up an office for the magistrate at its office - Block-A, Elander Complex, and has filed a number of applications against its consumers for the recovery of dues under Section 54-A of the Electricity Act 1910.

The magistrate office has started sending notices to the consumers, asking them to appear before it for the reply over the issue, or get ready for the arrest, attachment and sale of immoveable property for the recovery of the arrears under SLRA, 1967.

On the other hand, the law experts argued that the Section 54-A of the Electricity Act 1910 has become ‘redundant’ and KE as a private company cannot take action against any consumer under the same provision. They also said that a private power company cannot facilitate a judicial magistrate in its jurisdictions. There must be a neutral venue for the very purpose so that the both complainant and respondents can put forward their arguments conveniently and easily.

The section 54-A does not qualify for K-Eclectic because the power utility is a public limited company and section 54-A applies to the recovery of the government dues as land revenue, they said.

“I understand this section used to apply for Karachi Electric Supply Corporation (KESC) when it was being controlled by the government but since it has been sold to a foreign national and has been converted into a public limited company they cannot claim to use section 54-A.” said a legal expert who deals power related cases from Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) platform.

“I am a disabled person living in a one-roomed house in Gulshan-e-Iqbal for about five years after the death of my parents. I have got no power connection from KE. My expenses are being born by an NGO. Interestingly, in March last, I received a notice from the judicial magistrate in which he had asked me to appear before it in person as KE has filed an application against me with charging a ‘hefty’ amount of Rs 848, 956 on account of electricity charges as arrears of land revenue under the SLR Act-1967.” I was surprised and attended the hearing wherein I submit my reply,” said the consumers who wished not to be named.

I have filed a petition against KE in National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) on the same issue, he said.

He also showed a copy of show cause notice sent by magistrate to this scribe which stated: ‘KE has filed an application under section 54-A of the Electricity Act, 1910 for recovery of Rs 8,489,56 from you on account of electricity charges as arrears of land revenue under the Sindh Land Revenue Act, 1967. You are hereby required to appear before this court in person or by a pleader on 14-3-18.

In case you fail to appear, or no satisfactory reply is relieved, KE’s application shall be decided in your absence and proceedings as stipulated in the SLRA,1967 will be initiated which may include your arrest, attachment and sale of your immoveable property for the recovery of above mentioned arrears,”

When K-Electric was approached for the official version, its spokesman in a brief statement has confirmed that KE is facilitating the special magistrate as per guidelines set forth by the Board of Revenue Sindh and is in accordance with section 54-A of Electricity Act 1910, and further promulgated by the government of Pakistan under the Pakistan Penal Code Theft Amendment Act 2017. He said that KE is a law abiding company and operates under the realms of the guidelines of relevant authorities.