Gujarat Electricity State Regulatory Commission Is Not Vested With Jurisdiction To Entertain Electricity Theft Issues: High Court
The Gujarat High Court at Ahmedabad while dealing with a special civil application ordered that the Gujarat Electricity State Regulatory Commission is not vested with the jurisdiction to consider the prayer of the petitioner related to the electricity theft issue and the same cannot be adjudicated by the Commission.
Justice Nirzar S. Desai observed –
"The petitioner's prayer for initiation of the inquiry can also be made before the aforesaid Special Court and, therefore, considering the clear and unambiguous language of section 86 of the Act, the Commission has rightly observed that Commission is not vested with the jurisdiction to consider the prayer of petitioner and hence aforesaid prayer of the petitioner cannot be adjudicated by the Commission in exercise of powers conferred to the Commission under the Electricity Act, 2003."
Advocate Dhruvik K Patel appeared for the petitioner.
Brief Facts of the case-
The petitioner was a consumer of the licensee Daksin Gujarat Vij Co. Ltd. On July 17, 2020, it inspected the electric meter installed in the premises. During the inspection, it was found that the meter was defective as it did not indicate any parameters. The meter was seized by the checking officer and was sent to the laboratory.
The respondent company issued a bill on December 3, 2020 for an amount of Rs. 52,22,762.16 and Rs. 7,93,566.00 towards compounding charges total amount being Rs. 60,16,328.16. The case of the petitioner was considered to be of 'direct theft'. The petitioner being aggrieved with this preferred a writ petition which got disposed of directing the company to reconnect the electricity of the petitioner upon making payment of the entire amount in installments.
The petitioner also preferred an application before the Commission but the same got dismissed on the ground of the availability of alternative remedy as well as on the ground that the issue related to the theft of electricity cannot be adjudicated by the Commission in the exercise of powers under the Electricity Act, 2003. Being aggrieved by such an order of the Commission the petitioner filed a petition before the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution.
The High Court while agreeing with the observation made by the Commission stated –
"Considering the fact that the prayer made in this petition cannot be said to be amongst the functions of the Commission, as rightly pointed out by the Commission, as the petitioner has already challenged the action of the respondent authority of issuance of supplementary bill before the Special Court by filing civil suit."
The Court also stated that "… the Commission has rightly not entertained the petitioner preferred by the petitioner on the ground of maintainability and dismissed the same. Except for the powers available to Commission under Section 86 of the Act, learned advocate Mr.Dhruivk Patel could not point out any other language nor he made any other submissions or cited any decision in support of powers or Commission to adjudicate such issues."
It was further observed by the Court that "In view of above, the order dated 10.08.2022 by the Gujarat Electricity State Regulatory Commission in petition No.1951 of 2021 cannot be said to be an illegal or erroneous order and, therefore, the same does not warrant any interference of this Court."
The Court concluded –
"… any authority / forum before which the grievance of the petitioner is pending in the form of suit or petition may not be influenced by dismissal of present petition or by that order dated 10.08.2022 passed by the Commission and is directed to consider the grievance of the petitioner by considering the merits of the matter in accordance with law and to pass a reasoned order."
Accordingly, the High Court dismissed the petition.
Cause Title – Mitulbhai Ranchodbhai Lakhani v. Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission