A flat owner’s electricity supply cannot be disconnected over pending dues of the previous owner of the premises. And, neither can it be cut without intimating the consumer about the non-payment for a continuous period of two years, the Mumbai Suburban District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum ruled recently.
The forum was hearing a complaint filed by Khadak Singh Dhami, a resident of Subhash Nagar in Andheri (East), from whom Reliance Energy Limited (REL) had demanded outstanding bills of the flat’s previous owner.
The forum presided over by president JL Deshpande, members DS Bidnurkar and
VG Joshi held that REL could not recover the amount under a provision in Section 56(2) of the Electricity Act, 2003. The proviso specifically prohibits electricity distributors from recovering dues pending for more than two years without continuously showing the sum as outstanding. In Dhami’s case, the forum noted, no such arrears were continuously shown in the electricity bills.
Dhami had bought the flat in April 2007 from one Shanta Gawli who had earlier purchased it from one Nirmala Chimkar. The bench found that Dhami was not told about the Chimkars’ pending dues when he purchased the flat or when he got the electricity meter transferred in his name.
“In October 2009, I was shocked to see my electricity bill showing arrears of Rs 10,260,” Dhami told HT.
“When we went to REL office and sought an explanation, we were simply told to pay up, failing which, our electricity supply would be disconnected,” his wife Kusum said.
In the same month, REL disconnected their electricity supply, but after Dhami spoke to REL, it was restored after a few hours.
REL’s stand was that though the arrears were the Chimkars’ and had been pending since 2003-04, Dhami was liable to pay as he was the new owner of the premises. They further contended that he had been intimated about the arrears through a notice.
The forum, however, held that REL was required to notify the consumer about pending dues by showing the outstanding amount continuously as arrears in his electricity bills.
The forum has now directed REL not to disconnect Dhami’s electric supply, and to pay them Rs 10,000 towards mental agony and cost of the proceedings.
A spokesperson for REL told HT, “This looks like a rare case in which the dues of the previous owner are being demanded from the new owner. We will take appropriate steps once we receive a certified copy of the consumer forum order,” he added.