Colombo (LNW): The Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL), Mr. Janaka Ratnayake, has filed a Fundamental Rights (FR) Application challenging the February electricity tariff hike. The Application is both in his capacity as an electricity consumer and in the public interest, especially in the interest of those falling within the lowest brackets units of electricity consumed, who are hardest hit by the tariff hike. The basis of the challenge is twofold.
On the one hand, Mr. Ratnayake has challenged the process by which the PUCSL has purportedly approved the tariff hike proposed by the CEB contrary to established legal procedures. The approval of the PUCSL is a necessary requirement for a change in tariffs, and Mr. Ratnayake says that there was no such lawful approval of the Commission given to the proposal. he claims that the purported approval given by the Commission is an unlawful decision of three of the Members and not a decision of the Commission.
The second basis of the challenge is that the PUCSL is duty-bound to ensure that the interests of all citizens are met when approving a change in tariffs. A tariff that disproportionately affects those within lower usage brackets would put those at the lowest income levels at risk of ‘deelectrification,’ making even the limited units of electricity consumed by them for basic necessities inaccessible.
Ratnayake explains in his Petition that the most economically generated hydropower-based electricity alone (approximately 4,400 GWh) would be more than sufficient to service all domestic consumers within the 0-30, 31-60 and 61-90 bands, with a significant portion of such electricity remaining for distribution among other categories.
Thus, it is unreasonable that consumers within these brackets are made to pay the price of electricity generated at a much higher cost.