Consumer forums do not have the jurisdiction to deal with electricity billing disputes

A State Commission ruled that consumer forums do not have the jurisdiction to deal with electricity billing disputes. The complainant had bought a flat, where the energy connection was in the name of the builder. Since he was not given a regular bill for a while after August 2007, he asked the company and was given a bill demanding an exorbitant amount. When he asked to see the meter, a second bill was given, and though he made a part payment, the electricity connection was cut. The District Forum awarded compensation but the State Commission ruled that the complainant was not a consumer as electricity billing did not come within the Consumer Forum’s jurisdiction.

 

BEFORE THE HON’BLE STATE CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL
COMMISSION
, MAHARASHTRA, MUMBAI

First Appeal No. A/10/309
(Arisen out of Order Dated 30/11/2009 in Case No. 01/2009 of District Thane)

1. MAHARASTRA STATE ELECTRICITY DISTRIBUTION CO LTD & ORS
SHANTI CHAMBER, ULHASNAGAR 5, DIST. THANE.
THANE MAHARASHTRA

2. THE ASST. ENGINEER, SUB DIVISION, MAHARASHTRA STATER ELECTRICITY DISTRIBUTION COMPANY LIMITED
SHANTI CHAMBERS, ULHASNAGAR – 5, DIST.: THANE
MAHARASHTRA

………..Appellant(s)
Versus
1. MR SHYAM KISHANCHAND BHATIA
SATYARAJ APARTMENT, 7TH FLOOR, 702, NATAJI ROAD, ULHASNAGAR – 421 004.
THANE MAHARASHTRA

………..Respondent(s)

BEFORE:

Hon’ble Mr. S.R. Khanzode PRESIDING MEMBER

Hon’ble Mr. Dhanraj Khamatkar Member

PRESENT:
SANDEEP S. JINSIWALE , Advocate for the Appellants

Respondent present in person.

ORDER
Per Shri S.R. Khanzode, Hone’ble Presiding Judicial Member

This appeal takes an exception to the order dated 30/11/2009 passed in consumer complaint No.01/2009 Mr.Shyam Kishanchand Bhatia V/s. M.S.E.D.Co.Ltd. & Anr. by District Consumer Forum, Thane.
It is the case of respondent/org. complainant-Mr.Shyam Kishanchand Bhatia (hereinafter referred as ‘complainant’) that he has purchased flat bearing No.702, Apartment in the year 1993 from one Mrs.Hema Murlidas Nagpal and since then residing there. The energy connection is in the name of builder, but however, he is to pay energy bill submitted by O.P./appellant (hereinafter referred as ‘Company’). Since he was not received any regular bill after August 2007, he approached the Company and thereupon, bill dated 17/12/2007 covering period of the year 2007 for `47,980/- was given. He made application for inspection of the meter on 26/12/2007. However, second bill for `50,590/- dated 28/02/2008 was given and ignoring part payment, his energy supply was discontinued by the Company on 17/11/2008. When he tried to get information under the Right to Information Act, he was informed that meter which was changed on 04/03/2005, change was not recorded and feed to the computer and it was done only in the year 2008 and the bills were charged as per meter reading after giving installments. Not satisfied with the explanation and since, energy supply was not restored, he filed this consumer complaint on 03/01/2009 inter alia claiming following reliefs :-
“a) To hold and declare the Opposite Parties to be guilty of deficiency in service and unfair trade practice as per the provision of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
b) To direct the Opposite Parties to restore the electricity supply to the complainant and to raise current meter charges for the electricity consumption.
c) To direct the Opposite Parties to rectify the disputed bills since December 2007 and to refund the excess money if any received from the complainant.
d) To direct the Opposite Parties to raise the bills for actual consumption without any arrears.
e) The Hon’ble Forum may please to grant the interim & ad interim relief as prayed for.
f) To direct the Opposite Parties to pay compensation of `1,00,000/- for incessant mental harassment caused to the complainant and to pay legal charges of `50,000/-.
g) For such other reliefs as the Hon’ble Forum may deem fit and proper in the facts and circumstances of the case.”

Forum below upholding the contention of the complainant gave directions including declaration that the Company had no right to recover the amount of `49,663.33 and bills dated 17/12/2007 and 28/02/2008 are false bills. It is further directed that the Company should charge only as per current bill for each month and the amount of `10,000/-, `2,000/- and `5,000/- collected towards arrears to be adjusted in the future bills, compensation of `2,000/- towards mental torture and `1,000/- towards the costs. Feeling aggrieved by said order, the Company preferred this appeal.
We heard Mr.S.S. Jinsiwale, Advocate for the appellants and respondent in person.
In the instant case, foremost point raised on behalf of the appellants/Company, respondent/complainant is not their consumer and as such to assume jurisdiction and to settle the dispute as per the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was per se erroneous and as such the impugned order is illegal. From the stated facts, it could be seen that the complainant claimed himself to be a beneficial consumer. Bills issued to him are in the name of “Nandwani Satish Santumal”. These bills issued show no connection with the complainant or to his vendor-Mrs.Hema Nagpal or even to M/s.Satyaraj Construction, who is described and mentioned as ‘builder’. Furthermore, to claim the status of beneficial consumer, he must avail energy supply with the approval of the Company with consent of consumer on record. Such is not the case before us and therefore, complainant cannot be termed as ‘consumer’ or much less ‘beneficial consumer’. A useful reference on the point can be made to the decision of the Hon’ble National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in the matter of Hari Prasad V/s. MU.H.B.V.N.L. Panchkula & Ors., 1(2010) CPJ 104 (NC). Since there exists no inter se relationship between the complainant and the Company as a ‘consumer’ and ‘service provider’, assuming jurisdiction by Consumer Fora is per se illegal and as such the impugned order is illegal nay will not stand in the eyes of law.
Assuming that it is a consumer dispute and the Consumer Fora could assume jurisdiction, still there is hardly any evidence adduced on behalf of the complainant to substantiate his claim. Ledger statement on record, which is undisputed document, does corroborate the case of Company that after the information to the computer was updated on the basis of actual reading, the bill was raised claiming the arrears in the year 2007. Such act not being contrary to the provisions of the Electricity Act, 2003, no deficiency in service on the part of Company could be alleged. If the complainant had any dispute about the bill raised, which is as per the meter reading, complainant ought to have taken recourse to the provisions under the Electricity Act, 2003. He failed to do so. Consumer Fora could not assume jurisdiction unless such recourse is taken under Section 126 of the Electricity Act, 2003.
Looking from any angle since the complainant is not a consumer within the meaning of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 and since, even if he is a consumer, he is failed to establish his contentions, the Company cannot be held guilty for alleged deficiency in service. Forum below instead of looking to the material placed on record as per provisions of Section 13(4) of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (in fact no such material is placed on record), went on hypothetical basis and arrived at a wrong conclusion. Observations to the effect that Company had intended to cheat the complainant taking advantage of the Indian Electricity Act and to bring pressure on the complainant to illegally recover huge sum and robbed the complainant, are totally unwarranted and made without any basis.
For the reasons stated above, we hold accordingly and pass the following order :-
-: ORDER :-
1. Appeal is allowed. The impugned order dated 30/11/2009 is set aside. In the result, consumer complaint No.01/2009 stands dismissed.
2. In the given circumstances, both parties to bear their own costs.
3. Copies of the order be furnished to the parties.

Pronounced
Dated 12th January 2011

[Hon’ble Mr. S.R. Khanzode]
PRESIDING MEMBER

[Hon’ble Mr. Dhanraj Khamatkar]
Member

 

Judgement Link

http://164.100.72.12/ncdrcrep/judgement/21011012013513430A-309-2010.htm

 

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