Our Legal Correspondent

Chennai, Aug. 30

THE levy by the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board of 20 per cent extra charges for electricity consumed by high tension industries during peak hours was "within the parameters of law," the Madras High Court has held.

The board has several choices to administer the power supply, and as long as the choices did not break the law, or were shockingly arbitrary, the Court would not interfere, the First Bench consisting of Chief Justice MrMarkandey Katju and Mr Justice A. Kulasekaran observed.

Dismissing a batch of writ appeals against the order of a single judge upholding the levy, the Bench said that it was not for the court to tell the Government what it should do in these matters, and it was purely for the legislature and the Government to decide on.

The State Government levied in 1997 extra tariff of 20 per cent on the high tension (HT) industries requiring power supply during peak hours. It was done to subsidise the power to other users and to restrict the use during peak hours as the Government had to pay more for the purchase made by it from other suppliers. The HT units concerned challenged the extra levy saying it was illegal.

The Bench said the authorities must be given freedom to do experiments while exercising their powers, provided they did not transgress the legal limits or act arbitrarily. The decision to levy the extra charge was an experiment made by the Government to curb peak hour demand. In its view, the said experiment was well within the scope and ambit of the provisions of the TN Electricity Revision of Tariff Rates on Supply of Electricity Energy Act, 1978.

No doubt, the Government could have resorted to other methods of curbing peak hour demand, but it was not for this Court to tell which option would have been better.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated August 31, 2005)
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