SC gives free hand to Distcoms to replace even correct meters

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New Delhi, Oct 18 (UNI) The Supreme Court has given a free hand to private distcoms in Delhi to replace even the electricity meters giving correct readings with electronic meters of their choice.

A bench comprising Justices S B Sinha and Harjit Singh Bedi, while dismissing an appeal of a consumer has ruled that ''There does not exist any provision in any of the statutes referred to herein before which precludes or prohibits the licensee to replace one set of meter by another. If such a provision is read into the statute , the same would come in the way of giving effect to the benefits of new technological development. Creative interpretation of the provisions of the statute demands that with the advance in science and technology the court should read the provisions of a statute in such a manner so as to give effect thereto.'' Section 20 of the Indian Electricity Act, 1910, empowers a licensee to enter any premises to replace or alter any meter.

According to the apex court, ''Section 20 is an independent general provision and in the absence of any statutory provision, we do not see any reason to put a restrictive meaning thereto. Even under the General Clauses Act, a statutory authority while exercising statutory power may do all things which are necessary for giving effect thereto.'' Appellant Suresh Jindal of Sunder Nagar, Delhi, had challenged the act of BSES Rajdhani Power limited and others who changed his meter despite the fact that the meter was giving correct figure of power consumption.

His writ petition was dismissed by the Delhi High Court.

The distribution of power in Delhi was transferred to private distcoms in 2003 and Delhi Vidyut Board was abolished.

The consumers of power in Delhi have been hit by electronic meters as their electricity bills have gone up manifold.

The apex court commenting on the issue noted, ''It is one thing to say that electronic meters when tested do not register actual, as a result whereof, the consumer would have to pay energy charges more than he is otherwise liable but it is another thing to say that it was legally impermissible.

It is, however not disputed or denied that whether meter is installed by the licensee or by the consumer himself, the same must have the requisite certificate granted in terms of the regulations, the provisions whereof have been made in the regulations made under the 2000 Act.'' The court also found no illegality in the direction issued by the Electricity Regulatory Commission to replace all existing meters with new electronic meters to plug the loopholes to avoid huge loss during transmission of electrical energy and in order to make a tariff certain checks and balances were required to be made.

The court also took note of the provisions made for penalising private distcoms if their bills are found inflated or wrong.

UNI

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