Terming electricity theft as a larger issue that affects Mumbai and needs to be dealt with, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday converted a writ petition into a public interest litigation (PIL).
The original petition was filed by seven to eight residents of Musafir Khana in south Mumbai in April after the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) threatened to disconnect their electric supply.
The residents had refused to pay their inflated electricity bills, saying that they were not actually consuming that much power but that it was being illegally drawn from their electric meters by hawkers.
Residents approached the court alleging that instead of taking action against those who were stealing power from their meters, the BEST was planning to cut their power connection.
A police complaint had also been filed about the power theft.
A division bench of Justice B.H. Marlapalle and Justice A.V. Mohta observed that the need is to find a solution to the problem instead of the BEST and the police getting into a blame game.
"Ultimately it is the question of efficient service. Pilferage has to be taken care of in time," said Marlapalle.
While the BEST says it cannot do anything more than file a complaint with the police, in turn the police said it is the job of the BEST’s vigilance committee to initiate action against miscreants.
The court said there needs to be better co-ordination between the police, BEST and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. In court, V.A. Thorat, counsel for the BEST, had argued that the BEST was not empowered to take action against non-consumers (those who steal electricity).
DP Adsule, additional public prosecutor, pointed out that that the police were registering the case whenever the BEST approached them and that it had even conducted joint raids.
Of the 38 cases in Musafir Khana registered since 2004 by the police under the Electricity Act, there have been 37 acquittals.
Raja Thakare, the counsel for the petitioners, said the acquittals showed the police’s inefficiency in filing charge-sheets on time and doing follow-ups. He said the BEST’s vigilance department should also take action.