Thursday, June 3, 2010

Consumer forums can’t settle power theft disputes: HC

Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court has ruled that consumer forums have no jurisdiction to entertain complaints pertaining to power theft between companies and consumers.

The electricity distribution companies had a complaint that the consumer forums interfered in their disputes with consumers over power theft. The forums would quash the companies’ orders to disconnect electric connections after consumers were found to have pilfered electricity or used it without authorisation. Moreover, in many cases, these forums used to impose cost of litigation on electricity companies.
The feeling that consumers forums were creating hurdles in their functioning grew and electricity distribution companies of the Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Ltd filed as many as 13 different writ petitions in the high court challenging consumer forums’ intervention in their disputes with consumers.
After hearing the case, the high court observed that the provisions of Electricity Act as well as Electricity Supply Code make it clear that once consumers have indulged in electricity theft and theft bills have been issued for that, consumers forums have neither jurisdiction to entertain complaints by consumers nor such forums can pass any interim order directing the companies to grant electricity connection. The high court also observed that every offence punishable under sections 135 and 139 of Electricity Act is triable only by special courts.
After the high court order, a note from the GUVNL stated that the order would pave way for companies to firmly deal with cases booked for power theft.

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