Utt HC | Providing unlimited electricity to employees deemed to be abuse of authority by Power Corpn.; audit ordered

Uttaranchal High Court: A Bench of Ramesh Ranganathan, C.J. and Alok Kumar Verma, J. issued directions to the Government of Uttarakhand and the respondent Corporation to file an affidavit within the prescribed time with regard to the allegations made by the petitioner.

A PIL was filed against the limitless largesse, extended by the respondent-Corporation to its employees, in the form of unlimited supply of electricity, right from the Managing Director to employees in Group D. The respondent-Corporation was providing unlimited electricity not only to its employees but also to all employees of the Generating Company and the Transmission Corporations and was charging them a measly sum per month for this unlimited supply of electricity. 

The Senior Counsel for the petitioner, B.P. Nautiyal, submitted that this loot of the public exchequer was being permitted to go unchecked ever since the State of Uttarakhand came into being till date; this facility of unlimited consumption of electricity was provided not only to an employee while he was in service but even after his retirement. In addition, this facility was being extended to his family members who were entitled to a family pension after his death. The petitioner also alleged that, in several cases, electricity meters, installed in the residence of employees, were non-functional; and, even in those few cases where the electricity meter was in order, meter reading was seldom resorted to.

D.S. Patni, Senior Counsel for the respondents, submitted that this benefit was extended only to employees in service and retired pensioners, and not to their family members. 

The Court opined that while employees of the Corporation could be provided electricity at concessional rates within prescribed limits, it was disconcerting that the Power Corporation was squandering public money by supplying unlimited electricity to all its employees, and those employed in the Generating and Transmission Corporation also. The financial burden, for this unreasonable largesse, was being borne by the general public of the State of Uttarakhand, resulting in their having to pay a higher rate for each unit of electricity consumed by them. 

The Court directed that a comprehensive audit be caused by the respondent-corporation’s books of accounts, including the expenditure incurred by it in supplying unlimited electricity, virtually free of cost, to its serving employees and those who have retired from service, and officers and employees of other Corporations. The respondent counsel stated that the respondent-corporation would examine the feasibility of placing limits on consumption of electricity by its employees either in terms of value or in terms of the units consumed. Deeming it necessary to ascertain the views of the State Government in this regard, the Court found it appropriate to, suo-motu, implead the Government of Uttarakhand represented by its Secretary, Energy as the fourth respondent in the writ petition. The Secretary, Energy, Government of Uttarakhand was ordered to file an affidavit explaining the rationale in permitting such unlimited consumption of electricity when such benefits were not being provided to other categories of Government servants. [RTI Club Uttarakhand v. Uttarakhand Power Corporation Ltd., 2019 SCC OnLine Utt 1261, decided on 06-11-2019]

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