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Pathetic and Unbelievable, Says J&K HC as Power Failure Plunges Court Into Darkness

Kashmir witnessed its worst power crisis in two decades this winter, which has taken a huge toll especially on the poor and the underprivileged, who depend on electricity to cook and keep themselves warm.
Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh high court. Photo: jkhighcourt.nic.in

New Delhi: The power crisis in the Kashmir Valley stung the judiciary on Monday (February 19) when the J&K and Ladakh high court suffered a two-hour power breakdown, prompting the judges to term the situation as “pathetic and unbelievable”.

According to officials, the incident took place when a two-judge bench of the Srinagar wing of the court convened on Monday morning to hear a letters patent appeal (LPA) petition against the order of a single bench in a matter related to the contractual appointments by the University of Kashmir.

Sources said that when the LPA came up for hearing, the court complex had already plunged into darkness.

“Relentless rains, clouds and the winter cold made the situation more miserable and unbearable, but the court staff kept assuring the judges that the power was going to be restored soon,” said a source.

A senior advocate who practises at the high court said that the main power generator, which is put into use when the grid supply lines fail, had also suffered a “technical malfunction”, which left the two judges fuming as all attempts to restore electricity failed.

“A lot of heating appliances are being used in the court complex these days to beat the winter cold. That could be the reason for the power breakdown,” said the advocate, who didn’t want to be named.

After waiting for nearly two hours, when the court staff failed to restore the power supply, the two judges, in a written order, reprimanded the Jammu and Kashmir administration for the “pathetic and unbelievable” condition of the high court.

“There are no lights. The air heating unit is also not functional. The power failure has taken place at about 09:45 am and has still not been restored when this order is passed at about 11:28 am. The matter has gone from bad to worse,” the two-judge bench observed in the order.

According to sources, the power supply was restored at around 11:45 am after which normal work resumed at the court complex, “There was a second power-cut soon afterwards but it didn’t last more than a few minutes. One can only imagine the situation in that case,” the advocate quoted above added.

In its order, the high court urged the J&K administration to find a “permanent solution” to the power crisis while calling upon the chief secretary, Atal Dullo, to “pass necessary orders to solve this problem forthwith.”

“The solution may vary from having a separate power line to the high court which does not experience any downtime and also supported by generators of such capacity which can power the entire high court and also the air heating unit without interruption,” the court order, a copy of which is with The Wire, noted.

The power breakdown at the high court took place on a day when rains have lashed the plains in the Kashmir Valley while the higher reaches are receiving a fresh spell of snowfall, plunging the temperatures to sub-zero levels at many places.

Kashmir witnessed its worst power crisis in two decades this winter, which has taken a huge toll especially on the poor and the underprivileged, who depend on electricity to cook and keep themselves warm.

Unscheduled and prolonged power outages, which lasted between 12 and 16 hours a day during the peak of this winter, also impacted the healthcare of patients with respiratory illness such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

COPD patients depend on electric appliances such as oxygen concentrators at home to prevent their lungs from dysfunctioning.

While some political parties and consumers have blamed the outages on the refusal of the Union territory administration to purchase sufficient power for the winters, J&K’s power department has shifted some part of the blame on ‘power thieves’ and launched a massive crackdown in the Kashmir Valley to check the pilferage of electricity.

This year, an unusually dry winter in Kashmir is also believed to have exacerbated the power crisis. As the level of water remained abnormally low in the Jhelum and other rivers and in the water bodies of Kashmir, the power generation by local hydroelectric projects plunged from 200 to 250 MW in a normal winter to merely 50 to 100 MW this year.

According to J&K’s power department, about 2100 to 2300 MW of electricity is required to provide round-the-clock supply to consumers in Kashmir during winter.

However, only around 1600 MW were reportedly purchased this winter, which caused prolonged and unscheduled power cuts.

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