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Secretary, Kerala State Electricity Board & Another v/s The Manager, M/s. Kallarakal Maharani Gold

    Revision Petition No. 3411 of 2013 with IA 6073 & 6074 of 2013

    Decided On, 30 October 2013

    At, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission NCDRC

    By, MEMBER

    For the Petitioners: M.T. George, Advocate. For the Respondent: ---------

Judgment Text

Dr. S.M. Kantikar, Member:

1. The present Revision Petition is filed by the Petitioner, under Section 21(b) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 against the Judgment dated 27.02.2013 passed by the Kerala State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, (in short, ‘State Commission’) Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, in Appeal No. 163/2012, whereby the Hon’ble State Commission dismissed the Appeal filed by the Petitioners. The State Commission passed the order against the judgment dated 26.08.2011 passed by the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, (in short, ‘District Forum’) Kasargod in Consumer Complaint No. 159/2010, where the District Forum allowed the complaint filed by the Respondent and cancelled the short assessment bill dated 11.05.2009 for Rs.5,33,954/- for the period from 10/2003 to 2/2009 and directed the Petitioners to issue a revised bill for the period commencing from 2/2006 to 2/2009.

2. The Complainant, Manager, M/s Kallarakal, was running a jewellery shop and was a consumer of Kerala State Electricity Board, (in short, ‘KSEB’) Kasaragod, having consumer no. 6688012487. He was regularly remitting the consumption charge bill, issued by OP. OP-2 issued a letter stating that inspection of Anti-Power Theft Squad (APTS), on 25.03.2009, revealed that one of the meter was not functioning and the consumption was not correctly recorded. Hence, on 5/5/2009, OP issued a bill in the sum of Rs.5,33,954/-. The OP also stated in the letter that there was a deficit recording of 23% of the consumption; hence, the Complainant was bound to remit 30% of consumption more, with effect from 10/02/2003. The last date of payment for the bill was on or before, 09.06.2009. Since, it was a huge amount, the Complainant approached the Minister of Electricity and got installment facility. The Complainant also approached Consumer Grievances Redressal Forum, (in short, ‘CGRF’) Kozhikode, which rejected his complaint. Complainant contended that OP-2 did not comply with provisions of Section 126 of Indian Electricity Act, and no provisional assessment notice was issued by OP to the Complainant and the inspection was not conducted in the presence of the Complainant. The allegation that one phase of the meter was not working due to non-removal of insulation from the wire is not correct. Consumer cannot be penalized for the negligence that occurred on the part of the officials of the OPs. As per the conditions of supply of Electricity Act, OPs can claim 6 months consumption charges as an average, after rectifying the defects. But in the impugned bill, the assessment is from 10/2003, onwards. Moreover, the OPs cannot claim more than 2 years’ arrears. Hence, the complainant stated that the OPs have violated all the provisions. Since the Complainant is running a shop he was compelled to remit Rs.2,59,286/- as per the order of the Minister, to avoid disconnection. By issuing a bill for an exorbitant sum, in violation of rules, the OPs have committed deficiency in service. Hence, a complaint No.159/2010, was filed before District Forum seeking cancellation of the bill and for refund of the amount, already paid.

3. The District Forum partly allowed the complaint and directed the OPs to issue revised bill for short assessment from 2/2006 to 2/2009 and further directed OPs to adjust Rs.2,59,286/- already paid by the Complainant in that bill. Permission was granted to recover the balance amount, if any, without interest or surcharge in 10 monthly installments.

4. Hence, aggrieved by the order of the District Forum, the OP preferred an Appeal before the State Commission. The State Commission observed that the only question that arises for consideration is whether the OPs are entitled to issue short assessment bill for the period from 10/2003 to 2/2009, on the basis of KSEB Terms and Conditions of supply 2005. The said Terms and Conditions came into force with effect from 01.02.2006. Till that date there was no provision permitting the KSEB to issue short assessment bill for that portion of the energy that was not being recorded due to no fault of the consumers. Hence, the provision has no retrospective effect. Hence, the backdated bill from 10/2003 was wrong. Accordingly, the State Commission dismissed the Appeal and allowed the Complaint.

5. Against the order of State Commission, the OP filed this Revision Petition.

6. We have heard Shri M. T. Gorge, Counsel for petitioner, on the point of delay in filing this revision and on merit.

7. There is a delay of 71 days in filling this Revision Petition. The Petitioner filed an application for condonation of delay and explained the reasons for the delay, as follows:

' That the delay occurred in the following circumstances. That he certified copy of the Impugned Order was issued to the Petitioner on 18.04.2013 and thereafter the Petitioner sent the case papers to its Legal Department for ascertaining whether it is a fit case to be agitated before this Hon’ble Commission be filling a Revision Petition. The petitioner received the Legal Opinion certifying that this is a fit case for filling Revision Petition and thereafter the case papers were sent to the office of the Secretary for obtaining sanction for filing the Revision Petition. The necessary sanction could be obtained only on 25th June, 2013. Thereafter the case papers were sent to the Petitioners Counsel at New Delhi. The Counsel received the same on 15.07.2013. The case records received by the Counsel for the Petitioner some of the relevant documents were not available in the case records. The Counsel requested the Officer in charge to furnish the documents and the same were received in the second week of September, 2013. Thereafter, the Counsel for the Petitioner immediately prepared the Revision Petition and the same is being filed today. However, in this manner there occurred a delay of 71 days in filing the Revision Petition. The said delay has occurred due to administrative reasons and not due to any laches or negligence on the part of the Petitioner.'

We are not satisfied with such vague and evasive reasons for such huge delay, in filing this revision. It is well settled by various judgments of Hon’ble Supreme Court and this Commission that condoning such delay will defeat the very purpose of Consumer Protection Act.

In case of the Chief Post Master General & Ors. Vs. Living Media India Ltd. and Anr. 2012 STPL (Web) 132 (SC), Hon’ble Supreme Court was pleased to hold:

'13. In our view, it is the right time to inform all the government bodies, their agencies and instrumentalities that unless they have reasonable and acceptable explanation for the delay and there was bonafide effort, there is no need to accept the usual explanation that the file was kept pending for several months/ years due to considerable degree of procedural red-tape in the process. The government departments are under a special obligation to ensure that they perform their duties with diligence and commitment. Condonation of delay is an exception and should not be used as an anticipated benefit for government departments. The law shelters everyone under the same light and should not be swirled for the benefit of a few. Considering the fact that there was no proper explanation offered by the Department for the delay except mentioning of various dates, according to us, the Department has miserably failed to give any acceptable and cogent reasons sufficient to condone such a huge delay.

Accordingly, the appeals are liable to be dismissed on the ground of delay.'

In another judgment Anshul Aggarwal V. New Okhla Industrial Development Authority, IV (2011) CPJ 63 (SC), where it was held that : -

It is also apposite to observe that while deciding an application filed in such cases for condonation of delay, the Court has to keep in mind that the special period of limitation has been prescribed under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 for filing appeals and revisions in consumer matters and the object of expeditious adjudication of the consumer disputes will get defeated if this Court was to entertain highly belated petitions filed against the orders of the Consumer Foras'.

The following judgments also support our view,

R.B. Ramlingam Vs. R.B. Bhavaneshwari, I (2009) CLT 188 (SC)-I (2009) SLT 701-2009 (2) Scale 108 and

Ram Lal and Others V. Rewa Coalfields Ltd., AIR 1962 Supreme Court 361.

Furthermore, the C.P. Act envisages summary procedure where special period is mentioned for disposing of appeals and revision petitions. This Commission cannot adopt excessive liberal approach, which would defeat the very purpose of the C.P. Act.

8. We have perused evidence on record. The OP’s Anti-Power Theft Squad did not find any tampering with the energy meter, OP issued a short assessment bill because the ‘R’ phase of the CT Meter at the premises of the Complainant was not seen recording energy. It was due to non-removal of varnish insulation from the wir

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e connecting the current transformer. It was the duty of the officers of the OPs to remove the varnish insulation before connecting that wire to the phase of the meter. Therefore, there was deficit recording of energy and no fault on the part of the Complainants. The OPs resisted the claim of the Complainant on several grounds. The complainant remitted Rs.2,59,286/- to avoid electricity disconnection. Also, as per High Court’s directions the Complainant approached CGRF of OP. But, CGRF rejected his request. 9. Therefore, we are of considered view that, the OPs have committed deficiency of service while providing the connection. There is no fault of the Complainant for which he should suffer unnecessarily. The OPs were not vigilant while providing the connection and for no fault of the Complainant, one phase of the meter was not recording consumption of energy, from the very inception. 10. Accordingly, we dismiss, this Revision Petition, both on the ground of delay as well as on merits.