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HC Rejects distcoms’ 3% error rule

The distcoms will now have to declare a meter defective if it runs fast or slow by one per cent not 3 per cent as insisted by them, reports Harish V Nair.
Hindustan Times | By Harish V. Nair, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUN 09, 2008 12:35 AM IST

Those of you infuriated by inflated electricity bills resulting from fast-running meters and the distribution company’s refusal to change them can now relax.

Distcoms like BSES Rajdhani that insist they will change meters only if they run fast at least by three per cent can no longer take refuge under such technicalities and self-evolved rules with the Delhi High Court clearing the air on the permissible limit of error.

The court has said the specification laid down by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) alone forms the benchmark to decide whether or not a meter is defective. This means the distcoms will have to declare a meter defective if it runs fast or slow by one per cent.

The judicial intervention came on a petition filed by social activist V.K. Jain, alleging that BSES refused to declare the meter installed at his premises in Mehrauli “defective” despite the fact it was running fast by 2.82 per cent. Jain’s petition urged the court to decide “when can an electricity meter be declared as defective under rule 57 of the Electricity Rules”.

Justice Sanjiv Khanna held that a qualified committee laid down the BIS specifications after proper scrutiny and examination. “The specifications cannot be altered, amended or changed without following the prescribed procedure and examination by experts,” said the court.

BSES had contended that BIS specifications could not be made applicable as the “said specifications and limits of error cannot be applied to actual field conditions”.

But Justice Khanna said, “Once Indian standard specifications are fixed, a meter will be deemed to be correct if it meets the parameters. Error beyond the parameters fixed will mean the meter is defective: 3% or 1% rule will apply only if no parameters or specifications are fixed by Indian Standard Specifications…it is not for the court to modify, amend or rewrite the relevant rule. The rule is plain, clear and unequivocal. There is no ambiguity which requires any other interpretation to be given.”

BSES had taken a stand the meters when tested in the field tend to have positive errors because of factors such as voltage and frequency being lower than the reference (BIS) values and temperature being higher than the reference (BIS) temperature.

But the court said the specifications had undergone detailed scrutiny and examination at the hands of experts before they were accepted.

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