Bihar State Commission: Consumer Forums Cannot Adjudicate Offences Under Electricity Act, 2003

The Bihar State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, presided over by Judicial Members Gita Verma and Md. Shamim Akhtar, determined that consumer forums under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, do not possess the jurisdiction to adjudicate complaints concerning assessments conducted under Section 126 (regarding unauthorized electricity use) or actions taken under Sections 135-140 (relating to electricity theft and other offenses) of the Electricity Act, 2003.

Key Details

The complainant obtained an electricity supply connection from North Bihar Power Distribution Company (“Distributor”) for his wheat crushing machine, which had a daily capacity of crushing 24 tons. He consistently paid his electricity bills. In January 2021, the Distributor issued a bill of Rs. 2,54,432/-, due by 28th February 2021. However, two days before the payment deadline, the Distributor disconnected the complainant’s supply line, resulting in a loss estimated at Rs. 20,16,000/-. Dissatisfied with this action, the complainant lodged a consumer complaint with the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in Supaul, Bihar (“District Commission”).

The District Commission upheld the complaint and mandated the Distributor to reinstate the complainant’s electricity supply within 15 days without any fees. If the supply had already been restored with charges, the Distributor was instructed to reimburse the amount within the same period. Furthermore, the Distributor was directed to compensate the complainant with Rs. 20,000/- for physical and mental distress, along with Rs. 2,500/- to cover litigation expenses.

Displeased with the District Commission’s ruling, the Distributor lodged an appeal before the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Bihar (“State Commission”). The Distributor argued that the complainant had defaulted on bill payments, prompting the disconnection of his supply line. It asserted that the complainant settled his dues and restoration charges on 06.03.2021, resulting in the restoration of electricity supply. Additionally, it contended that the District Commission lacked jurisdiction due to the provisions of the Electricity Act, 2003.

Findings by the Commission

The State Commission reviewed the distributor’s argument that the District Commission lacked jurisdiction over the dispute. It referenced the Supreme Court’s ruling in U.P. Power Corporation Ltd & Ors Vs. Anis Ahmad [(2013) 13 S.C.R 388], which stipulates that consumer forums under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, cannot adjudicate complaints related to assessments under Section 126 or actions under Sections 135-140 of the Electricity Act, 2003.

The State Commission acknowledged that the complainant used the electric supply connection for commercial purposes, underscoring the relevance of this legal standpoint to the current matter. The bench also accepted the distributor’s assertion that this legal interpretation remains unchanged despite recent amendments to the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

Consequently, the State Commission concluded that the District Commission lacked jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case. Therefore, the appeal was upheld, and the challenged order was overturned.

Case Title: North Bihar Power Distribution Co. Ltd. and Anr. vs Kartik Prasad Gupta

Case No.: Appeal No. 04 of 2022

Date of Pronouncement: June 19th, 2024

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