THE Allahabad High Court on Friday ruled that theft of electricity was a social crime and it should be treated as a ‘congnizable offence’.
A Division Bench comprising Justice Amitava Lala and Justice Shiv Shanker also said that persons involved in the theft of electricity were not the only illegal users, but persons aiding or abetting the theft within or outside the department were also liable.
Under the criminal law, cognizable offence is a serious offence and an accused can be arrested without warrant.
“Electricity is a saleable commodity per unit and supply of uninterrupted electricity to the citizens is essential service of the State. Therefore, theft of electricity should be treated as a cognizable offence,” the Court observed.
The Court suggested deletion of the word ‘non-cognizable’ used under the list of offences in the Electricity Act, 2003, to have more effective applicability.
The court said that since theft of electricity was declared as social crime and saleable commodity, there was no bar under Criminal Procedure Code to take care of the offences temporarily till the amendment of Electricity Act.
This judgment was passed while deciding a number of writ petitions, wherein apart from seeking stay on their arrest on charges of electricity theft, the petitioners had also challenged the vires of Rule 12 of the Electricity Rule 2005.
The petitioners’ contention was that the police had no power to arrest them without any cognizance to be taken up by the appropriate court under section 151 of the Electricity Act 2003.
Giving this judgment, the Court observed, “Electricity’, being item no- 38 of the List III of Concurrent List of seventh schedule of the Constitution of India, both Central and States have every right to form STF to entrust the duty at an appropriate circumstances especially in the case of doubt about failure or connivance of the police with miscreants’’.
The Court said that necessary applications could be made by the appropriate authority and or by the police to the court of competent jurisdiction to obtain leave or permission for necessary investigation into individual cases. After such leave or permission, there would be no bar for them to investigate and arrest an offender, it said.