SC directs Discoms

Noting that total power dues across the country have crossed Rs 1 lakh crore, the Supreme Court on Monday warned that if state-owned distribution companies do not promptly clear dues to generators, the latter will shut and there will be no electricity.

The warning came from a bench of Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices A S Bopanna and Hima Kohli on an application from Adani Power Maharashtra seeking at least 50% payment from Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Corp Ltd and keeping in mind the large number of power generating companies moving the court against state-run discoms that have chronically defaulted on payment. Directing MSEDCL to pay 50% dues to Adani Power within four weeks, the bench said: “Every day the power generating companies supply electricity and you use it. Their money is with you. They cannot run their plants unless you pay up promptly. Otherwise, they will shut their plants and tomorrow there will be no electricity. ”

A similar order was passed by a bench headed by then Justice R F Nariman on February 16 last year directing the Uttar Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam to pay 50% of its Rs 1,100-odd crore dues. A large number of independent power producers have moved the court against states on late payments, which are in many cases in the range of nine to 12 months.

According to statistics maintained by the Union power ministry, Maharashtra tops the list of defaulters with a current outstanding of Rs 21,249 crore. Tamil Nadu is a close second with a total outstanding of Rs 21,132 crore, Rajasthan 12,393 crore, Uttar Pradesh 11,307 crore, Madhya Pradesh 6,964 crore, Karnataka 6,202 crore, Jharkhand 2,773 crore, Bihar 1,781crore and Delhi 1,398 crore.

All northeastern states are shown to be promptly clearing their power dues with Arunachal registering the lowest outstanding of Rs 10crore, followed by Nagaland Rs 26 crore and even Assam has a low outstanding of Rs 234 crore. Uttarakhand has an outstanding due of Rs 54 crore, Himachal Pradesh Rs 257 crore, Odisha Rs 338 crore, Chhattisgarh Rs 738 crore, West Bengal Rs 946 crore and Gujarat1,149 crore.

The serial defaulting by states makes even the revival of private power plants, facing insolvency proceedings, that much more difficult. Jhabua power plant is a case in point as it is yet to be paid Rs 822 crore as of January 1 by the discoms. The ministry of power records show the overdue amount at the end of January was the maximum for IPPs, which cumulatively have not been paid Rs 55,377 crore.

The central public sector enterprises have not been paid Rs 23,511 crore, of which Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd alone has an outstanding of over Rs 10,000 crore and NTPC nearly Rs 7,000 crore. Though there has been a lot of emphasis on the renewable energy sector, the RE power generators have cumulative outstanding dues of Rs 19,783 crore.

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