Monday, July 18, 2011

Consumer courts cannot try power theft cases, says HC

Ahmedabad: The consumer courts have no jurisdiction to try the cases of electricity theft or intervene in disputes between power company and consumers regarding assessment of usage of electricity, the Gujarat high court has held.
Deciding various complaints in regards with consumer dispute redressal last month, a division bench headed by Chief Justice S J Mukhopadhaya ruled that the Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission has got no jurisdiction to try cases against assessment made by the electricity company or theft of energy under Section 135 of the Electricity Act, 2003.
Last week, the high court ruled again in favour of the Paschim Gujarat Vij Co Ltd (PGVCL) and quashed an order passed by the Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum, Bhuj, which had asked the electricity company to revise the bill issued to a consumer. In this 2007 case, Rameshchandra Madiyar was accused to have tampered with the meter in such a way that it did not record the correct consumption of the electricity. He was given abill of Rs 1.23 lakh, which was later revised to Rs 1.21 lakh. Madiyar approached the consumer forum, which intervened and asked PGVCL to issue another revised bill by reassessing the loss.
PGVCL approached the high court, but a single-judge bench rejected the petition on the ground that the petitioner could have opted for other remedy against the forum’s order like approaching the commission. However, this order was also challenged before a division bench by the electricity company. The bench headed by the chief
justice allowed PGVCL’s appeal and quashed the singlejudge bench’s order as well as the consumer court’s order as well.
The consumer court’s order was quashed on the ground that for cases of energy theft, special electricity courts have been set up. Moreover, the high court has also observed that the consumer courts can intervene in disputes, wherein the consumer raises questions on services provided by an electricity supplying company. But in cases of theft and assessment of energy consumption, the consumer court should not interfere, for special courts are set up for this purpose.
The bench also set aside the single-judge bench’s order on the ground that the party questioned the jurisdiction of the adjudicating authority which the high court ought to have answered.

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