Victory for consumers in Sabarmati Gas battle

Vol 26, PW 5 (23 Feb 23) People & Policy

Sometimes it is not about the money but the principle.

That seems to be the case for Gandhinagar resident Gunvantiben Ghediya who has won a landmark case against Sabarmati Gas after battling for eight years. Ghediya accused Sabarmati of overcharging him and 217 other residents of Amba township when taking security deposits for piped gas connections to their homes.

On February 9 (2023), the PNGRB ordered Sabarmati Gas, a joint venture of BPCL and GSPC, to refund the excess amount charged by March 23 (2023) or face the consequences. That will involve a payout of at least Rs11 lakhs ($13,300) from Sabarmati Gas to all 218 residents.

In a 16-page order signed by members Gajendra Singh, AK Tiwari, and AK Pande, the PNGRB said: "We hold that the act of Sabarmati Gas in collecting the security deposit amount of Rs10,000 ($121) was unjust and uncalled for and contrary to the PNGRB Act, 2006." Adds the order: "We direct Sabarmati to refund the excess amount charged within six weeks from the date of this judgment."

If Sabarmati fails to refund the money within six weeks, it must pay 6% annual interest on the excess security deposit charged. Sabarmati's board has been told to comply with the PNGRB order or risk penalties.

On September 25 (2014), Ghediya complained to the PNGRB that Sabarmati Gas had illegally collected a security deposit of Rs10,000 ($121) or double the amount authorised by the PNGRB (Rs5000). On March 12 (2015), Ghediya filed a petition at the Gujarat High Court seeking a refund.

On November 7 (2022), the court directed the PNGRB to decide the matter "under the law" within six weeks from the receipt of the court order on January 3 (2023). "Sabarmati Gas defaulted the mandate of Regulation 14 service obligation (which lays out the relationship between gas retailer and customer) and charged more than what was stipulated in the PNGRB Act, 2006," concludes the order.

"It is in the spirit of the PNGRB Act, 2006, to provide the utmost protection to consumer interests."