Decided on November 17,1963



- (1.) THIS is an application under Article 226 of the Constitution for the issue of an appropriate writ directing the respondent to resume the supplv of electricity to the petitioner's mill known as Sree Veeranjaneya Flour and Rice Mill, Ramakrishnapuram, Trimulghery, Secunclerabad. The facts necessary for the purposes of disposal of this writ petition are that the petitioner has one Flour Mill which was established in 1951. A poly phase meter and a time switch were fixed to the property. The time switch was to regulate the use of the energy. The Assistant Engineer of the respondent Board on 23-10-1953 removed the meter and fuse disconnecting the supply of electricity to the mill. He informed the petitioner on 24-10-1963, that the mill, contrary to the terms and conditions, was run during peak load hours, that the meter was defective and that a reconnection can only be obtained on payment of Rs. 1,000/-: The petitioner challenges this action of the Assistant Engineer.
(2.) IN the counter the respondent has admitted that in 1951 the petitioner applied for the supply of eletricity to his Flour Mill which was stated to have a capacity of 10 H.P. The connection was therefore given on 19-12-1951 under the terms and conditions which were accepted by the petitioner. To ensure compliance with a condition that the Mill will not avail of energy supplies between 5 P.M., and 10 P.M., which are the peak load hours, a time switch was fixed. Contrary to the terms and conditions it was found on information on 17-10 1963 that the petitioner is regularly availing the energy during peak load hours and is using, the electric power for grinding stones, that the time f,witch was tampered with and the meter was not registering consumption and was stuck up. The cup-board seals bad also been tampered with. The Assistant Engineer therefore went on 23-10-1963 and removed the meter by disconnecting the power supply. He then issued a notice to the petitioner on 24-10-1963 informing him that if he is anxious to have re-connection, he must deposit Rs. 1,000/-. The principal contention of Mr. G. Vedantha Rao, the learned Counsel for the petitioner, is that under Sections 24 and 26 of the INdian Electricity Act, 1910 (herein-after called the Act), the action of the Assistant Engineer was wrong and the meter therefore should be restored by giving the necessary supply of energy. I do not think that there is much substance in this contention. Section 24 of the Act relates to the discontinuance of supply to the consumer neglecting to pay charge. The supply was not disconnected in this case on the ground that the consumer has neglected to pay the charges. Section 26 also has no bearing on this case. It is true that under sub-section (2) of section 26, it is the licensee who should keep the meter correct, in default of which the consumer is entitled to Stop paying the hire charges of the meter. Sub-section (4) authorisses the licensee to inspect and test the meter. Proviso to sub-section (4) states that the licensee shall not be at liberty to take off or remove any such meter if any difference or dispute of the nature described in sub-section (6) has arisen until the matter has been determined as therein provided. Now sub-section (6) of the section states "where any difference or dispute arises as to whether any matter referred to in sub-section (1) is or is not correct, the matter shall be decided upon the application of either party, by an Electrical INspector; and where the meter has, in the opinion of such INspector, ceased to be correct, such INspector shall estimate the amount of the energy supplied to the consumer or the electrical quantity contained in the supply, during such time, not-exceeding six months, as the meter shall not in the opinion of such INspector, have been correct; but save as aforesaid, the register of the meter shall, in the absence of fraud, be conclusive proof of such amount or quantity". Sub-section (6) has no relevance to the question raised in this petition There was absolutely no difference or dispute raised by the petitioner before the meter was actually removed. As stated above, on getting information the Assistant Engineer visited the Flour Mill and found that the meter was tampered with. It is nowhere stated in the petition that the petitioner raised a question or dispute, that the meter is working properly and that as there is no defect as far as the meter is concerned, it cannot be said that any difference or dispute had arisen before the meter was actually removed. On the other hand, the absence of any allegation in that behalf could only mean that the petitioner was satisfied that the meter was incorrect and was not working properly. The action of the removal of the meter therefore cannot be challenged on the ground that there was a difference or dispute already raised before the settlement of which the Assistant Engineer could not have removed the meter. I am therefore satisfied that Sections 24 and 26 have no relevance. It was then contended that the allegations made by the Department are not correct. It is almost obvious that this Court, acting in the exercise of powers under Article 226 of the Constitution cannot go into the disputed questions of fact. They have not been also seriously disputed. That being the position, the only question which remains for consideration is whether the Assistant Engineer on the ground that the energy is used for other purpose than what it was allowed for, or that the meter was tampered with or that the power is used during the peak hours, although prohibited, can remove the meter. Under clause (10) of the terms and conditions which the Board has fixed in pursuance of the powers vested in it under Section 49 of the Act, it is enjoined that "whete any consumer is detected in the commission of any mal practice with reference to his use of electrical energy, including unauthorised alterations to installations, unauthorised extensions and the use of devices to commit theft of electrical energy, the Board may, without prejudice to its other rights, cause the consumer's supply to be forthwith disconnected; The supply may be restored in the discretion of the Board, if the consumer suitably compensates the Board and takes such other action as may be directed by the Board to take in this context". It is clear from Clause 10 that the Board has competence to disconnect the power supply. The Board has authorised the Assistant Engineer to disconnect the supply when he detects malpractices, unauthorised extensions etc. A copy of the proceedings which authorised the Assistant Engineer has also been referred to in the affidavit by the Secretary, State Electricity Board. When the Board authorised the Assistant Engineer to disconnect the supply, if it found that the consumer is tampering with the meter, or has indulged in some malpractices, the Assistant Engineer was competent to remove the meter. I do not therefore find any difficulty in reaching the conclusion that the Assistant Engineer on the grounds mentioned above was justified in disconnecting the supply and removing the meter. No fault can be found in the action which he hag taken. The letter which the Assistant Engineer has written to the consumer on 24-10-1963 appears only to be an advice given to the consumer. It cannot be taken as an order passed by a competent authority: Clause 10 referred to above clearly says that giving re-connection is in the discretion of the Board and that the Board can do so on such terms and conditions as it lays down; The petitioner therefore is not estopped from approaching the Board for getting any connection. It is fairly conceded by Mr. Ananta Babu. the Advocate for the respondent, that the advice given by the Assistant Engineer in the above said letter is not a mandatory direction given to the petitioner, the non-compliance of which will make his application to the Board untenable. It is therefore open to the petitioner to approach the Board for getting the re. connection provided he conforms to the requirements of getting such re-connection. IN-the result, I find no substance in this petition. This petition therefore is dismissed with costs.;

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