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Discom told to refund money

By Mandira Nayar

NEW DELHI, FEB. 12. This was an electricity "theft" that Sanjeev Gupta never committed, but was forced to pay for. A consumer of electricity, Mr. Gupta was sanctioned an enhanced load in April 1997. However, BSES Rajdhani Power Limited continued to send him bills against his old meter on an provisional basis. Two years later, the enforcement officials claimed that the seal on his meter was tampered with and he was booked for theft of electricity.

While he was found innocent by the Metropolitan Magistrate later, he was forced to pay Rs. 1,66,466.99. Angry at being persecuted in spite of his innocence, he was forced to knock at the doors of a consumer court. A bench of the Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum II has now held BSES Rajdhani Power guilty of deficiency in service for burdening Mr. Gupta with the raised bill on the basis of the alleged theft which was not valid and directed the company to refund the money at a 9 per cent interest. The company was also asked to pay Rs. 3,000 as cost of litigation.

In his case before the bench Mr. Gupta held that the officials of the electricity company found no theft of electricity, however, he was forced to pay more than Rs. 1 lakh to keep his electricity connection.

For their part, the electricity company submitted that the forum had no jurisdiction in the matter as this was a case of theft. They further stated that at the time of the inspection, the half seals of the meter were found broken and both the rivets were tampered with. The company also added that while Mr. Gupta had been acquitted of the criminal liability, but he can't escape the civil liability.

After going through the evidence the bench noted that the forum had upheld the plea regarding the maintainability of the complaint on account of theft of electricity being involved, but this order was set aside in appeal by the Delhi State Commission with consent of both parties and the case was remanded back to this forum.

The bench added that Mr. Gupta had been discharged in the theft case by the court the Magistrate and therefore the theft charge was no longer relevant. "There is nothing on record to show that the complainant indulged in any theft of electricity," the bench noted. The company could have shown that by showing substantial variation in the consumption of electricity, the bench held. Since that has not been shown, Mr. Gupta could not be burdened with a theft bill simply on the basis of tampered seals, the bench held. Therefore, holding the company guilty of deficiency in service for not granting the relief to Mr. Gupta, the bench asked it to refund the money at a 9 per cent interest.

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