In a setback to Reliance Infocomm Infrastructure, the Supreme Court on Wednesday remanded back to the Bombay High Court its dispute over the demand of Rs 1,184 crore raised by the Maharastra State Electricity Distribution Company (MSEDCL) allegedly for “unauthorised use of electricty” at its premises in the Millennium Business Park.
A bench headed by Justice PC Pant refused to stay the HC order and asked the Anil Ambani-led company to raise the issue with regard to pre-deposit of 50% of the demand (around R600 crore) as well as the option of paying the amount in instalments before the High Court, which on May 22 had directed the Reliance Communication arm to deposit 50% of the bill within seven days for the case to be heared on merits.
The SC bench also give time till June 15 to Reliance for making the pre-deposit before the high court.
Reliance senior counsel Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi while seeking stay on the HC’s order said that the company is willing to argue its case but wants exemption from pre-deposit.
Opposing the plea, the MSEDCL counsel said that the appeals against the tariff order was not maintainable without the pre-deposit.
According the the Ambani firm, it carries out its IT enabled services from a MIDC building in the millennium Business Park and that the electricity tariff for its premisies should be calculated as per industrial tariff rates and not commercial rates.
Stating that the demand is “unsustainable,” Reliance in its appeal stated that the demand for unauthorised use of electricity had been raised illegally in contravention of the IT/ITES policy of the Maharashtra government and the policy nowhere specifies compulsory registration of individual IT units in the IT parks. It further stated that it used the electricity in accordance with the permitted usage for the IT units of its parent- RCom – and other sister concerns, thus the question of “unauthorised use” does not arise.
According to Reliance, the very basis on which the impugned demand was raised does not exist and “the question of not adhering to stipulation contained in the IT park registration with the DoI does not arise or unauthorised use of electricity does not arise.”
Besides, the HC failed to appreciate that the circular of October 1, 2013 read with the clarification of February 2014 “makes it amply clear that IT unit registration was not mandatory” prior to October 2013, the company said.
The fact that Reliance Communications Infrastructure had ITS certification valid till July 2, 2015…, the MSEDCL “ought not to have assessed from 2009 onwards and even assuming that for activities which were allegedly not covered under the policy, the claim raised by MSEDCL would reduce drastically to about 2% of the total amount,” the petition stated.