Power producer can not levy charge without service: SC

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New Delhi, Dec 31 (UNI) The Supreme Court has ruled that a supplier of electrical energy, a public utility service, can not levy any surcharge without keeping the promise made to the consumer.

The ruling was handed down by a bench comprising Justices S B Sinha and Harjit Singh Bedi while deciding the validity of the two notifications issued by U P Electricity Regulatory Commission on August 7, 2000 levying 15% additional surcharge on those consumers who wanted uninterrupted supply of power during peak hours namely 1800 hrs to 2300 hrs and a similar surcharge for an assured supply of power for 500 hours per month for those getting supply from independent feeders.

The apex court in its judgment said,"Tariff is fixed for providing a service. Supply of electrical energy is a public utility service. While carrying out a function of this nature, the court of law must keep in mind the equitable principles also. Equity does not postulate that although the supplier did not fulfil its obligation, still it would be entitled to benefits envisaged under the law.

A supplier of electrical energy is presumed to know as to whether it would be in a position to abide by the terms of supply imposed by the Commission. It was required to gauge its capacity to make uninterrupted supply of electrical energy to a class of consumers. Manufacturers of electrical energy belong to different class. Manufacturers of certain categories of goods having regard to the nature of their products would require continuous supply of electrical energy; be it peak hours or otherwise. The licensees in such cases are required to make special arrangements for continuous supply of electrical energy to such clsass of consumers." The consumers including petitioners namely L M L Limited, Diamond Cements, Modicon Fibre Company and others have been complaining against erratic supply of power.

Justice Sinha, writing the 35-page judgment for the bench, permitted the appellants to agitate their grievance before the Regulatory Commission without expressing any opinion on the merits of the case.

Petitions were filed against the surcharge levied by the UP Power Corporation Ltd and Uttarakhand Power Corporation.

The apex court, however, noted that since Uttarakhand Power Corporation did not make any promise of continuous supply the doctrine of promisory estoppel will not apply against it.

The apex court also took note of the fact that the Commission did not take any decision on the representation made by the UP Power Corporation and ruled that such as conduct on the part of the Commission may invite the doctrine of acceptance sub silentio.

UNI

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