(1.) THIS appeal by the appellant-Jharkhand State Electricity Board is directed against the judgment dated 1 -2-2007 passed in WPC No. 109 of 2007 whereby learned Single Judge held that the action of the appellants in disconnecting the electric connection in the premises of respondent (writ petitioner) is illegal, arbitrary and violative of principle of natural justice and further directed to restore the petitioner's electric supply forthwith.
(2.) THE facts of the case lie in a narrow compass : respondent is a small scale industry manufacturing M. S. steel ingots at Adityapur industrial Area, Adityapur, Jamshedpur. Res-pondent entered into an agreement with the Jharkhand State Electricity Board (in short 'electricity Board') for supply of electric energy having a contract demand of 1200 KVA. Subsequently, the meter of the respondent became defective which was replaced by the Board on 7-10-06. On 5-12-06, a team of five senior officials of the Board made inspection and prepared meter reading report All the old seal bits of the Door, meter Box and T. P. were removed and new seal bits were affixed. Again a team of officers inspected the respondent's premises on 3-1-07 and took meter reading. On inspection it was alleged to have been found that some of the seals were tampered and were not original seals. It was further found from the record that the load consumption was less than what it was prior to 17-12-06. Accordingly, F. I. R. was lodged in gam-haria Police Station alleging pilferage and theft of energy causing loss to the Board to the tune of Rs. 2,40,00,000/- (Rupees two cores and forty lacs). The case was registered under Section 135 of the Electricity act, 2003 read with Section 379, I. P. C. Consequently, electrical connection was also disconnected.
(3.) THE case of the respondent-petitioner was that allegation of tampering with the meter and other allegations were deliberately made in order to harass the respondent with ulterior motive. It was further alleged that abrupt disconnection of the electric supply of the respondent-Industry has caused sudden closure of the industry and the respondent has been put to suffer huge loss. According to respondent, the action of the appellants is also violative of Sections 56, 126 and 135 of the Electricity Act, 2003 and the same is wholly illegal and whimsical.
(4.) THE case of the appellants-Electricity board on the other hand was that the authority of the Board found theft of electricity by tampering with seal bits of the Board's meter Box etc. and therefore, disconnection of supply of electricity in such a situation is not arbitrary. According to the Board disconnection of electric energy is in accordance with Clause 16. 9 (A) of "1993 Tariff.
(5.) LEARNED single Judge after hearing learned counsels for the parties and after considering the relevant provisions of the electricity Act and the tariff held that disconnection of supply of energy in the premises of respondent was violative of principles of natural justice and further that action of the Board was illegal and arbitrary.
(6.) MR. V. P. Singh, Sr. Advocate, appearing for the Board assailed the impugned judgment of the learned single Judge as being contrary to law and the provisions of the Tariff. Learned counsel firstly, submitted that the appellant-Electricity Board is empowered to disconnect the electric supply in the premises of consumer without notice under Clause 16. 9 of the 1993 Tariff which is still holds goods because the said clause is not inconsistent with 2003 Act. Learned counsel further submitted that regulation 15. 4 of the regulation framed by jharkhand State Regulatory Commission under Section 181 read with Section 50 of the Electricity Act 2003 empowers the Board to disconnect the electric supply of a consumer in case of theft of electricity or pilferage. Learned counsel then submitted that in the instant case "security Seal" which was placed in meter was found broken. This expose the meter which records the electrical consumption. According to the learned counsel all unauthorized use of electricity includes theft of electricity. All theft of electricity will be unauthorized use of electricity. (7.) ON the other hand, learned counsel for the respondent-Consumer firstly submitted that the dispute in the present case is covered by Clause 15. 3 of the Electricity supply Code introduced by Jharkhand State regulatory Commission. It is submitted that the said Act is to be made applicable to all distribution licensees in the State of jharkhand and the Jharkhand State electricity Board being one of the licensee, the supply code is applicable to the Jharkhand state Electricity Board. On these factual positions, learned counsel submitted that meter of the Board is installed in the meter room which is under the lock and key of the board's Officials The said meter room is opened once in a month by the Board's officials without allowing the consumer or consumer representative to enter into the said room. Only after the meter reading is taken by the Boards' Officials the meter room is again locked and seals are put by them only after obtaining a signature of the consumer's representatives. According to the learned counsel since meter is installed in the meter room, at no stretch of imagination, it can be said that without breaking and opening the meter room seal of the terminal cover of the meter can be changed. Learned counsel submitted that action of the Board, in any view of the matter, is arbitrary, illegal and violative of principles of natural justice.
(8.) IN the impugned judgment, the learned single Judge considered Section 56 and section 126 of the Electricity Act, 2003. Learned single Judge also considered Clause 16. 9 (A)of the Tariff and held that these provisions do not confer power to the Board to disconnect the supply of electricity without following the principle of natural justice. We do not find any reason to differ with the view taken by the learned single Judge.
(9.) HOWEVER, it is worth to mention Clause 15. 3 of the Electricity Supply Code introduced by Jharkhand State Electricity regulatory Commission. The said Clause reads as under :
"clause 15. 3 if the equipment i. e. , electrical plant, lines or meter etc. of the licensee placed in the consumer premises is found tampered, distressed/damaged, the licensee shall be entitled to recover the expenses incurred for restoration of such plant, line, meter etc. , without prejudice to his right to ta
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ke action under appropriate provisions of the Act, including disconnection of supply under section 56 of the Act for non-payment of the cost for replacement/rectification. " (10.) AFTER having considered relevant provisions of the Act, regulation and tariff, we are of the view that in the facts and the allegation made against the consumer in the instant case, the action of the respondent-Board cannot be justified. (11.) IN the facts and circumstances of the case, we do not find any reason to differ with the view taken by the learned Single Judge in the impugned judgment. (12.) FOR the reasons aforesaid, we do not find any merit in this appeal, which is, accordingly, dismissed. Appeal dismissed.