Mumbai: In a significant ruling, the Bombay High Court held there is no fundamental right to “free” electricity for business or commercial purposes. HC also said that any government-provided service cannot be used for a private self-serving benefit.
The bench of Justices Satyaranjan Dharmadhikari and Gautam Patel delivered the significant judgment while dismissing the petition of Goradia Special Steels Ltd.
The manufacturer of steel ingot, Goradia has been a “heavy” electricity consumer and had accordingly failed to pay electricity bills since 2008.
The manufacturing firm relied on a government policy of 2006, which provided for a complete interest waiver and a one-time settlement of the defaulted amount.
However, this scheme ceased to operate from March 2009, much prior to a chance given to the firm for a one-time settlement of dues. The firm, however, defaulted in making the payments and instead moved the court.
The firm now offered to make the “principal” payment, which was crystallised way back in 2009, however, claimed it would not pay off the penalties and other dues.
Having heard the contentions, Justice Dharmadhikari noted that despite not paying off the dues, the firm continued to draw electricity in vast volumes, racking up bills of Rs 1 crore monthly, which too were delayed.
“It is only now, a full decade later, that it claims, seeking the benefit of an expired scheme, as if to suggest that its own repeated defaults and failures to pay its power bills count for nothing. It claims that this invocation is just and equitable. In fact, it is neither,” Justice Dharmadhikari said.
“It is a wholly unacceptable imposition on a government-provided service for private self-serving benefit. We fail to see how any entity can be entitled to carry on business at a public cost by not paying for a service that it continues to draw month on month.
There is no fundamental right to free electricity for business or commercial purposes,” Justice Dharmadhikari ruled. The bench further said that neither the court nor the government can extend these facilities to anyone.
“We must allow the government authorities to recover their legitimate dues. Therefore, the petition deserves to be dismissed,” the bench said while trashing the petition.