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Madurai Bench sets aside decree against power board

Staff Reporter

`The Thanjavur sub-court order is perverse and legally unsound'

MADURAI: : In a litigation pending before the Madras High Court for 14 years, the Madurai Bench on Wednesday set aside a "perverse and legally unsound" decree, confirmed by the Thanjavur sub-court, against the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board.

Allowing four second appeal petitions, two moved by the board and the others by the Thanjavur municipality through a common judgment, Justice R. Banumathi said: "The trial court committed a serious and substantial error in not adverting to the appropriate provisions of the law... causing a heavy loss to the municipality, which could not pay the electricity charge to the TNEB because of huge arrears to be collected from consumers."

The appeals were filed in 1990 against a permanent injunction granted by the sub-court against the board and the municipality restraining them from enhancing the electricity tariff based on a May 25, 1985 Government Order.

Though the board, constituted in 1948, was distributing electricity in most parts, the local bodies in Coimbatore, Madurai, Karur, Pollachi and Thanjavur were handling electricity supply, under licence from the board.

On June 10, 1994 the board took over the supply in these areas.

At that time, the Thanjavur municipality had to pay the board Rs.1,17, 97,156 in arrears. Earlier the local bodies used to purchase high-tension energy from the board and sell it to the consumers after converting it into low-voltage electricity.

The G.O. passed in 1985 increased the rates for licensees under the high-tension tariff. Subsequently the Thanjavur municipality increased the consumption rate for domestic and commercial use.

The Consumer Protection Council and Town Merchants Association in Thanjavur filed two suits against the increase before the district munsif. On appeal, the sub-court granted a permanent injunction against the increase.

Making it clear that the arrears pending since 1985 could be collected from the consumers, Ms. Justice R. Banumathi said the lower court was wrong in stating that the municipality was a domestic consumer, since it supplied low-voltage electricity, and hence the G.O. would not apply to it.

"It is clear from the evidence and records that the municipality was a bulk drawer of 11 KV high-tension energy and the plaintiffs, being consumers, cannot raise any objection to such an increase."

The judge said the finding of the lower court that there was no agreement between the board and the municipality but for the one made by the then Secretary of State for India, on August 10, 1935, for supply to the municipality was also erroneous. The provisions of the Electricity Act, 1910, the Electricity Supply Act, 1948, and the acts enacted by the State Government would govern the supply of electricity to the municipality and its consumers.

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