The state power board’s decision to contest in the high court a rights panel decision, asking it to pay Rs. 1 lakh compensation to a consumer for depriving him of power for nearly six years - despite an order by the State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission - has further burnt the pocket of an ailing Bihar State Electricity Board (BSEB).
The HC, while dismissing the writ application of the BSEB recently, imposed ‘exemplary cost’ of Rs. 20,000, over and above the compensation decided by the Bihar Human Rights Commission (BHRC). The cost is to be deposited by the BSEB in the account of the Bihar State Legal Authority.
In its recent order, justice Chakradhari Sharan Singh, said the inaction on the part of the BSEB in not restoring electricconnection before the respondent (Kishore Kumar Agarwal, a businessman) approached the BHRC was without ‘lawful excuse’.
“The inaction is unreasonable and without probable cause. The conduct of the BSEB and its authorities amounts to conscious violation of law… Such conduct / inaction on the part of the BSEB constitute malice in law,” ruled justice Singh.
Agarwal’s case dates back to April 1994 when the BSEB inspected his premises in Saguna More, Danapur, and detected a connected load of 10.067 KW against a sanctioned load of 0.666 KW. Agarwal had let out a small portion of his house to one Yashwant Kumar, who set up a technical institute there.
When Agarwal protested, the premise was re-inspected in January 1995 when the connected load was found to be 2.381 KW. After reviewing the applicant’s complaint with respect to difference in load, finally, a bill for Rs. 53,037.25 was raised on December 18, 1996. In the meantime, as the bill was not paid the electric line was disconnected on September 30, 1995, prior to issuance of the revised bill based on second inspection.
The premises was raided by the BSEB officials in presence of executive magistrate and police in July 1997 and electricity was found being consumed even though the line officially stood disconnected, and in the circumstances, an FIR was lodged against the applicant and Yashwant Kumar. A punitive bill for Rs. 83,484 was also raised on the applicant because of the misdeeds of the tenant.
The applicant approached the high court and pursuant to its direction, Rs. 13,537.25 was deposited in August 1997. He also filed application before the district consumer forum under the Consumer Protection Act. The consumer court directed the BSEB to immediately restore electric connection on payment of Rs. 13,537 upholding the applicant’s case that there was deficiency in service.
The BSEB preferred to appeal before the state consumer disputes redressal commission, which set aside the finding of the district forum on the point of deficiency in service but upheld the applicant’s claim on the basis of the second inspection. The state commission directed the BSEB to issue bills to the complainant on the basis of 2.381 KW load from January 1, 1995 and the applicant was directed to pay the entire arrear.
The state commission further directed that on receipt of bill payment, the BSEB should restore the electric connection, which was not done on the plea of nonavailability of electric meter and cable. The July 19, 2004 decision of the State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission notwithstanding, the applicant had to provide the materials and only then the line was restored on May 3, 2010. The applicant’s premises thus remained without electricity for nearly six years after the consumer court order.