After 13 years, court awards two-year jail term in power theft case
Long trial highlights need to amend anti-power theft law to ensure quick justicelucknow Updated: Apr 26, 2017 12:41 IST
Amid the Yogi Adityanath government’s preparation to tighten its noose on power pilferers, a court in Aligarh has sentenced an accused to two years’ rigorous imprisonment, as well as a fine, in a matter related to electricity theft by him.
It took 13 years for the court to declare the accused guilty in what, according to many, lends substance to the need for making amendments to the anti-power theft law to ensure quick and sure punishment to the offenders as already announced by Uttar Pradesh energy minister Srikant Sharma.
The court has awarded the jail term to accused Ram Singh and also imposed Rs 10,000 fine on him, making him liable to undergo an additional imprisonment for six months if he fails to pay the fine.
The court found Ram Singh, resident of Sarai Rehaman locality in Aligarh, guilty of pilfering electricity by tampering with the energy metre installed at his commercial establishment. The accused, who was out on bail and present in court, was taken into police custody and sent to jail as soon as the court delivered its verdict under Section 135 of the Electricity Act.
The order was signed on February 9, 2017 but the copy of the order, according to officials, was received by the department only on Tuesday. “We have received the order’s copy today only,” chief engineer, Aligarh zone, BS Gangwar told HT from Aligarh over the phone.
A local enforcement team of the electricity department under the Agra discom, on November 18, 2004 conducted a raid on Ram Singh’s premises that was used for commercial activities. The seal of the meter for a 5 HP power connection was found broken. On further examination, it was found that the accused was actually using 16.66 HP power, a load that comes under the industrial category whereas he owned only a commercial connection of 5 HP and was paying bills accordingly.
“It was found during the raid that Ram Singh was using two heater pumps, a rectifier and a polish machine, among other things, at his firm with electricity being stolen by tampering with the meter and thereby causing revenue loss to the department,” Gangwar explained.
The department then slapped a penalty of Rs 1,12,473 on the accused as compounding fee in lieu of court proceedings. The accused, however, refused to pay the amount following which the court proceedings started.
However, the fact that it took 13 years for the court to decide the matter also raises a question mark on the effectiveness of the prevailing law against power theft.
“Instead of setting up special power courts, UP has designated a judge in each court for hearing cases related to power theft. Since, the same court also hears other cases under the IPC and various other laws, the judgments on power theft cases are naturally delayed,” said an official.
“The Yogi Adityanath government’s initiative to introduce the Gujarat model of anti-power theft law in UP may be helpful,” he said.
Energy minister Srikant Sharma has talked several times of government’s intention of dealing with power pilfers with an iron hand a la Gujarat.
Gujarat is said to have special dedicated police stations, vigilance cell and courts that exclusively deal with power theft.
“We welcome the new government’s tough stand on power theft proposed adoption of Gujarat/Patiala model for this,” All-India Power Engineers’ Federation chairman Shailendra Dubey said in a statement.
“The state’s power engineers will extend full cooperation to the new government in its efforts to deal with power theft,” he said.