Hyderabad: Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission has asked Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWS&SB) to change the water bill of a consumer from 'commercial' to 'domestic'.

The consumer had received a bill of Rs 95,731.15 for commercial use in the last nine years.

The case dates back to 2012 when the complainant Indira Srinivas Mawle, 75, a resident of Barkatpura alleged that the HMWS&SB was harassing her. In 2012, her water connection was billed under the commercial category.

She had addressed a letter to the HMWS&SB seeking to consider him as a domestic user. They had conducted an inspection and after several adjournments before the permanent Lok Adalat for public utility services, they converted the water billing category from commercial to domestic. However, they failed to adjust Rs 49,982.67 bill.

In spite of several requests, the pending bill was not reversed till she was compelled to file a complaint in 2015 before the consumer commission. During the pendency of the case in 2015, they rectified the bill. The complainant was intending to withdraw the complaint but could not attend due to some pressing issue. As a result, the commission dismissed the case in 2015.

She alleged that taking advantage of the dismissal, the HMWS&SB in March 2016 converted her water billing category from domestic to commercial again. The complainant came to know about this in October 2016 and she addressed a letter to HMWS&SB and visited their office for clarification. But to date, she has not got any satisfactory response.

The HMWS&SB, in its defence, said that the property of the complainant, the whole ground floor of the building, is utilized for commercial purposes and the first floor is for domestic purposes. It admitted that in 2015 the water bill was converted from domestic to commercial as per the existing activity taking place in the building.

They also denied the contention of the complaint that it has not ratified the bill during the pendency case in 2015. The change from domestic to the commercial category was done on the feasibility report submitted by the board officials. The officials came to the conclusion that the area covered under commercial activity is more than 50 square meters i.e. it is 64 square meters.

In order to overcome the ambiguity, an advocate was appointed by the commission and with the help of a licensed surveyor visited the premises of the complainant and measured the plinth area under which commercial activity was going on. He filed a detailed report and concluded that the total plinth area covered under commercial area is 45.04 square meters.

"Henceforth the premises that otherwise would be reckoned under 'domestic individual category would be categorized under 'commercial' category, if the commercial area in the premises exceeds 50 sqm. Going with this rule and coupled with the commissioner's report it can be concluded that the water connection of the complainant falls into the domestic category," said the commission

The commission said that the bill has to be reversed from the commercial to the domestic category from 2016 till date. "As far as the entitlement of compensation is concerned it is observed that the complainant being a responsible citizen should have paid the minimum charges to the opposite party. The complainant had not paid a single bill since 20 August 2016 but has been enjoying the water supply without any interruption. We feel that the complainant is not entitled to any compensation," observed the commission.

The HMWS&SB was ordered to pay Rs 10,000 for litigation though.

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