No need to raise gas prices if corruption is reduced
The High Court said it would strictly monitor the ongoing public hearing arranged by the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) to increase the price of gas.
The court also asked the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) to join a writ petition that challenged the legality of the BERC public hearing.
The HC bench of Justice FRM Nazmul Ahasan and Justice KM Kamrul Kader, made the comments on Sunday.
Petitioner counsel, Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua,said during the hearing, that the court said it is not necessary to increase gas prices if corruption at Petrobangla and Titas can be reduced by 50%.
“If necessary, the court will also interfere,” said Jyotirmoy adding that even the court has criticized the anti-graft watchdog's role in the investigation of corruption at Petrobangla.
The HC fixed the date for issuing the order after concluding a hearing on the petition on 13 March.
Convener of Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), Architect Mubassher Hossain, submitted the petition to the HC on March 12, seeking a stay on the process of increasing gas prices.
During the hearing, petitioner counsel, Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua, told the HC that the BERC organized the public hearing for increasing gas prices in violation of relevant procedures.
As per BERC laws, the price of gas cannot be increased twice in a fiscal year, he argued, saying the commission raised the bulk distribution and transmission rates of LNG-blended gas on October 16 last year.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam appeared for Petrobangla, the licensing authority of the gas distribution companies, and Advocate AFM Mesbahuddin argued for BERC.
They said the writ petition is premature as no decision has yet been taken to increase gas prices further.
BERC started the public hearing on March 11 with proposals by six gas distribution companies -- Titas, Bakhrabad, Jalalabad, Pashchimanchal, Karnaphuli, and Sundarban -- for a gas price hike at the consumer level.
Titas and Sundarban have demanded a 208 per cent hike for the gas consumed by power plants, 211 per cent for fertilizer companies, 96 per cent for captive power plants, 132 per cent for industries, 41 per cent for commercial entities, and 50 per cent for CNG-run vehicles.
They are also seeking an 80 per cent rise in monthly gas bills for both single-burner and double-burner cooking stoves, from Tk 750 to Tk 1,350 and from Tk 800 to Tk 1,440, respectively.
The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), a number of other trade bodies, groups, and people are reportedly demanding scrapping of the government’s plan to increase gas prices further.
They said the gas distributors’ proposal for doubling the average gas price -- from Tk 7.35 to Tk 14.91 per cubic feet – is unrealistic, adding that if the price hike is implemented, it would wreak havoc on the country’s economy.