Mumbai: In a curious case, a housing society in Malad was informed via notice by the BMC in January 2013 that they had pending water and sewerage bills amounting to Rs. 53,052 for three months in 1989-1990. The notice came with an ultimatum: If these were not paid in three months, the water supply would be cut.
A Bandra consumer forum on Thursday called out the corporation and its Water Works department for ‘laxity’ and ‘carelessness’ in demanding pending bills after 22 years; not just that, no proof was furnished of the pending bills; and to add insult to injury, the BMC held out a warning of grim consequences if the pending amount was not paid in three months.
While not ordering a refund of the bill paid, as demanded by the society, since the pending bills had been seemingly demanded as per a CAG audit, the consumer forum directed that the corporation and its department should fork out a compensation of Rs. 50,000 for the financial, mental and physical agony they had inflicted.
As regards the litigation cost, the forum asked them to pay the society Rs. 10,000.
Forum President Shubaddha Tulankar and member Shraddha Jalnapurkar said in their judgment, “Recovering pending bills on time is the duty of the Water Works department. Since this responsibility was not discharged, the forum declares the department deficient in service and as having engaged in an unfair trade practice.
” As per the society’s complaint, when it had sent repeated letters to the Water Works department seeking clarifications on the sudden demand, bill details and time to check its records, the queries yielded evasive answers.
Further, the corporation’s water department employees started descending in the society and warning of a water cut, if the bills were not paid.
In November 2013, the Kiran Kunj Co-op Housing Society received a reply from the Water Works department to a legal notice it had sent some days earlier, asking for refund of the amount and details of the bill.
In its reply, the department, while refusing to refund the amount, had said that the pending bill was demanded as per a CAG audit report and its instructions.