(1.)THIS is an appeal by the Hubli Electricity Company, limited, against the judgments of Mr. Justice Blagden, dated March 23, 1945, and April 5, 1945, given in an action, which the appellant as plaintiff brought against the Province of Bombay, claiming declarations that the revocation of the appellant's license to supply electricity to consumers at Hubli is illegal, inoperative and void, and claiming consequential reliefs by way of an injunction and damages and the restoration to the appellant of his property and the electrical plant, which have, as a result of the alleged revocation of the appellant's license, been taken over by the respondent.
(2.)AFTER close of the pleadings a number of issues were framed and the first five of these were disposed of by the learned Judge's judgment of March 23, 1945, at the hearing of preliminary issues. At the subsequent trial, which lasted eleven days, the parties embarked upon the calling of much evidence, most of which as is now admitted, was wholly irrelevant and unnecessary. If the appellant's memorandum of appeal, which contains no less than sixty-one grounds of appeal, is any guide, the appellant proposed to attempt in this Court also to embark upon much irrelevant matter. But Mr. M. V. Desai, who now appears for the appellant, admits that what is relevant lies within a narrow compass, viz. whether the respondent on April 3, 1943, being the date of the letter, to which I will presently refer, effectually introduced into the appellant's license for the supply of electrical energy, new conditions, by virtue of Sub-section 4 (2) of the Indian Electricity Act, 1910. This question as to the validity of the new conditions involves the basic question whether the respondent's power of revocation under Sub-section 4 (1) (a) of the Act was operative, for if it was not, there was no power or right to impose the new conditions under Sub-section 4 (2 ).
If the answer to this question is in the negative, that would be an end of the case in favour of the appellant, but if an affirmative answer is given, the respondent would be entitled to have this appeal dismissed; since it cannot be, and is not now disputed, that if the new conditions were validly imposed, they have not been complied with, so that, the subsequent revocation by the letter dated January 28, 1944, which is based thereon, would be valid and effective.
We are told that this is the first case which has come before this Court under these sections of the Indian Electricity Act, and it is with much regret that I find myself unable to agree with the opinions of my learned brethren upon them, for the importance of these sections concerning the revocation and alteration of licenses for the supply of electricity cannot be denied, and unless the view which I take upon the questions of construction prevails, a position of much hardship must arise.
(3.)THE question which I have described as basic raises questions of fact and law, but the first matter upon which I differ from my learned brethren touches the competence of the appellant, having regard to its pleadings, to raise the second limb of his contention, that the powers of the respondent to revoke a license must be exercised judicially, and that the respondent did not so exercise them. THE other matter upon which we are not of the same opinion concerns the construction of Sub-sections 4 (1) (a) and 4 (2) of the Act. Sub-section 4 (1) (a), it seems to me, postulates a condition precedent, viz. the existence of an obligation on the licensee to do something "by or under" the Act, to the formation of an opinion by the licensing authority that the licensee has made a wilful and unreasonably prolonged default of the obligation in question.
The Indian Electricity Act, 1910, which came into force on January 1, 1911, is an Act of the Central Government and applies to the whole of British India. The Act constitutes the local Governments, now the Provincial Governments, the licensing: authorities to issue licenses for the supply of electrical energy, and Section 28 (1) provides: No person, other than a licensee, shall engage in the business of supplying energy except with the previous sanction of the Provincial Government and in accordance with such conditions as the Provincial Government may fix in this behalf, and any agreement to the contrary shall he void.