The Supreme Court on Monday exempted Tata Power Delhi Distribution from collecting ‘Environmental Compensation’ on monthly basis from all households in Delhi, including unauthorised colonies, as directed by the National Green Tribunal.
The amount on account of ‘Environmental Compensation’ was to be added to electricity bills, water bill and the property tax demand and the amount so collected was to be transferred to the Delhi government.
A bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur gave exemption to Tata Power after its senior counsel Kapil Sibal sought the direction in this regard.
Challenging the NGT’s orders of January 13 and May 8, the discom said the tribunal had impinged upon the principle of separation of powers by levying a tax on the residents NCT of Delhi and erroneously entered into the realm of judicial legislation.
It further argued that the tribunal “has attempted to modify its licence conditions. Such a direction has resulted in altering the licence conditions, which in effect amounts to legislate, since the licence conditions are statutory in nature having been specified by DERC by way of regulations…”
Stating that it was not authorised to collect and effectuate recovery of ‘Environmental Compensation,’ Tata Power said the billing system used by it “is not equipped to incorporate any other charges beyond what has been approved by DERC” and if it is to levy such compensation, “an overhaul of the entire billing system, subject to the approval of DERC, will need to be carried out.”
According to the discom, since it is not a state instrumentality as defined under Article 12 of the Constitution it could not have been directed to recover ‘Environmental Compensation. “A distribution licensee is not allowed to recover anything beyond the tariff as determined by DERC, apart from incidental taxes as prescribed by statute,” it added.
Further, in order to categorise the colonies, Tata Power will have to undertake a 100% consumer survey in its licensed area as currently the billing format does not provide for categorisation of colonies, the application stated, adding that the discom would also incur huge costs in conducting the surveys, employing persons to collect the ‘Environmental Compensation’ as well as other process related to recovery.