Chandigarh, Jan 2 (PTI) The Punjab and Haryana High Court has ordered a committee headed by the Punjab Chief Secretary to examine whether the state could discontinue its scheme for providing free power to cow shelters when it was collecting ‘cow cess’ from citizens. The Congress government had discontinued free electricity scheme in 2017 which was started by the previous SAD-BJP dispensation for registered ‘gaushalas’ (cow shelters).

The High Court recently directed the committee comprising state chief secretary and chairman of Punjab State Power Corporation Limited to look into the matter in a time-bound manner.

According to Punjab Gau Sewa Aayog, there are 425 registered ‘gaushalas’ in the state. The HC’s directions came on petitions filed among others by the ‘Jai Mata Vaishno Gaushala Society’, Punjab which had submitted before the court that despite provision for free electricity to registered gaushalas, recovery of pending dues was ordered.

The committee headed by the State Chief Secretary has been ordered by the court of Justice Rajan Gupta to examine the matter the directions are in continuation of an earlier order by the court, advocate Adarsh Jain, counsel for the Society, said on Wednesday. The counsel argued that the state was collecting cow cess from citizens, yet free electricity was not provided to registered cow shelters. The state counsel assured the court that recovery of dues would not be ordered as of now and power supply would also not be disconnected till a decision was taken. The opposition BJP in Punjab had targeted the ruling Congress over the issue.

A few months back, Union minister and BJP leader Vijay Sampla had accused the state government of discontinuing free electricity scheme to ‘gaushalas’. Sampla had said that Punjab government has accumulated around Rs 50 crore from cow cess and still the PSPCL had stopped free electricity supply to gaushalas. Sampla had questioned the state government as to why PSPCL was sending power bills to the registered cow shelters in the state despite getting cow cess on electricity bills. The bills should have been waived according to the state policy, he had said. The state government was collecting cow cess on purchase of new vehicles, bikes, booking halls in marriage palaces, cement bags, etc. It is collected by various government departments, besides urban local bodies. The cow cess is levied at rate of Rs 1,000 on the purchase of four wheeler, Rs 500 on purchase of two wheeler, 2 paisa per unit of electricity consumption, Rs 1,000 on booking of AC hall of marriage palace, Rs 500 on booking of non-AC hall, Re 1 per cement bag, Rs 10 per bottle of Indian Made Foreign Liquor and Rs 5 per bottle on Punjab Medium Liquor, an official of Department of Local Government, Punjab, said. In a year, the total power bill of registered cow shelters was around Rs 4.57 crore, Punjab Gau Sewa Aayog officials claimed.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.