Baldev Singh Sekhon, Member.
1. This appeal has been filed by the appellants/opposite parties against the order dated 28.5.2008 passed by the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Gurdaspur (in short œDistrict Forum?), vide which the complaint filed by the respondent/complainant against them was allowed and they were restrained from recovering the amount, in question, from the complainant and were further directed to pay Rs.500/- as litigation expenses.
2. The facts, as stated in the complaint, are that the complainant had taken an electric connection No.SP22/0616 in his shop from the opposite parties and he had been regularly paying the bills for the electric energy consumed by him. The opposite parties issued memo No.1877 to him on 8.11.2007 raising a demand of Rs.12,332/- alleging that he had consumed excess units than billed. His meter, which was working properly, was changed by them in his absence. Earlier bills were issued on 15.4.2007 and 17.3.2007 on average consumption of 132 units and 187 units respectively. When he requested opposite party No.2 to withdraw the said amount, he was asked to pay the same, failing which electric connection would be disconnected. In a complaint filed before the District Forum, he sought directions to the opposite parties to withdraw the illegal demand of Rs.12,332/-.
3. Upon notice, the opposite parties filed written reply pleading therein that when the meter of the complainant was changed, its reading was found to be 5369 units whereas he had paid the bills upto the reading of 2651 units. Hence the demand was raised through impugned letter for the balance energy bill of 2718 units consumed by him. The amount demanded was legal and genuine and there was no deficiency in service on their part. Dismissal of the complaint was prayed.
4. The parties led their evidence by way of affidavits and documents.
5. The District Forum, after going through the pleadings of the parties and evidence on record, allowed the complaint in the aforesaid terms.
6. Aggrieved by this order, the opposite parties have come up in appeal on the ground that the District Forum has failed to appreciate the contents of the notice dated 8.11.2007 (Ex.C-1) which shows that it was a provisional order of assessment and not the final order. It was wrongly concluded by the District Forum that the meter got burnt during the meter readers checking on 23.2.2007, and therefore, it could not show any reading and it was necessary to open the meter and check the reading in the ME Lab. When the same was checked, the reading was confirmed as 5369 and, as such, the complainant was liable to make the payment of 2718 additional units recorded by the meter. It was not mandatory to issue notice to the complainant for getting the meter checked in ME Lab as no theft of electricity was suspected. As per the instructions, it was required to pack and seal only those meters where theft of electricity is suspected. Acceptance of the appeal and setting aside of the impugned order was prayed.
7. We have thoroughly gone through the pleadings of the parties and have carefully perused the evidence on record.
8. The complainant has challenged notice No.1877 dated 8.11.2007 (Ex.C-2), vide which an amount of Rs.12,332/- was raised. The opposite parties contended that earlier bill was issued upto reading of 2651 units whereas actual final reading of removed meter was confirmed to be 5369, therefore, the demand was raised for remaining 2718 units. The case of the complainant is that he had made the payment of the bill issued on 15.2.2007 (Ex.C-6) in which the reading was 2651 units and the status of the meter was mentioned as œOK?. Thereafter two bills dated 17.3.2007 and 15.4.2007 (Ex.C-4 and C-5) were issued on average basis in which no reading was mentioned. Even though the reading of the removed meter has been shown as 5369 in meter change order (Ex.R-5) but it does not bear the signature of the complainant or his representative. The scrutiny of meter reading record, produced by the opposite parties themselves as Ex.R-6, shows that reading was recorded by the meter upto 2651 on 24.1.2007 and thereafter on 23.2.2007, the meter code is mentioned as R on 23.2.2007 meaning thereby that it got burnt but no reading was recorded by meter reader. The opposite parties have not followed the procedure at the time of replacing the meter as well as while checking the same in the ME Lab. Hence the impugned demand raised by them is not legally recoverable. They have relied upon the reading of removed meter mentioned in meter change order (Ex.R-5) on 28.3.2007 as 5369, but this MCO does not bear the signatures of the complainant confirming that it was changed in his absence. It is not understood when no reading of burnt meter could be recorded by the meter reader on 23.2.2007, how same was noted by JE on 23.3.2007. The stand taken by them is that the reading of meter was verified after opening the same in ME Lab, but this verification was also not done in the presence of complainant. In fact no notice was issued to him to come present in the ME Lab at the time of checking.
9. In view of the above discussion and findings, the appeal of the appellants/opposite parties is dismissed and the impugned order of the District Forum is affirmed and upheld. No order as to costs.
10. The appellants/opposite parties deposited an amount of Rs.250/- with this Commission at the time of filing of the appeal. This amount alongwith interest which has accrued thereon, if any, be remitted by the registry to the respondent/complainant, by way of a crossed cheque/demand draft, after the expiry of 45 days under intimation to the learned District Forum.
11. The arguments in the case were heard on 24.3.2014 and the order was reserved. Now, the order be communicated to the parties.
12. The appeal could not be decided within the statutory period because of the heavy pendency of the court cases.