The general manager of the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking has been summoned to the Bombay High Court to explain what steps are being taken to stop electricity theft in the city.
The high court was hearing a petition filed by the residents of Musafirkhana in south Mumbai after the undertaking had threatened to disconnect their supply instead of taking action against those who were stealing power.
“You go to any corner of Mumbai, and you will find this [electricity theft],” said Justice B.H. Marlapalle, while asking BEST general manager Om Prakash Gupta to personally file an affidavit on June 15.
“We want him to come and explain what he proposed to stop these thefts and not just reduce it,” said Justice Marlapalle, after expressing dissatisfaction with the affidavit filed by Prashant Jawale, assistant engineer, vigilance (supply) department.
The division bench of Justice Marlapalle and Justice Anoop Mohta also asked the government body what it was doing to recover the Rs 26 lakh from those who had pilfered power.
Though Jawale’s affidavit admitted to electricity theft, it expressed helplessness at curbing it. The affidavit said the BEST lodges complaints, but the police fail to take action against the illegal hawkers.
In at least five raids carried out at Saboo Siddiqui Road at Musafirkhana over five years, the BEST filed complaints claiming revenue loss of Rs 26.87 lakh.
Raja Thakare and A. Chimalkar, counsels for the petitioners, told the court that the BEST had compounded [pay fine and withdraw the complaint] some of these offences. “How can these offences be compounded?” asked Thakare.
BEST’s advocate said as the illegal hawkers were always on the move, it was not possible to keep track of them.
Justice Marlapalle remarked: “You are saying this because you are a public body… Had you made this statement if you were a private company? Then you would have been ruthless [in recovering amount].”
Jawale’s affidavit also refuted the petitioners’ claim that the meter holders were charged for the pilfered electricity. The notices sent to residents merely asked them to keep their meter cabins locked, the affidavit said.