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The Rajasthan State Electricity Board, Jaipur Vs. the State of Rajasthan and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectElectricity
CourtRajasthan High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Writ Petn. No. 1825 of 1970
Judge
Reported inAIR1972Raj143; 1971(4)WLN656
ActsElectricity Act, 1910 - Sections 24(1), 24(2), 36(2), 37, 37(1) and 37(2); Electricity Rules, 1956 - Rule 6(3)
AppellantThe Rajasthan State Electricity Board, Jaipur
RespondentThe State of Rajasthan and ors.
Appellant Advocate H.P. Gupta, Adv.
Respondent Advocate S.K. Mal Lodha, Adv. for respondent No. 3 and; S.K. Tewari, Dy. Govt. Adv.
DispositionPetition dismissed
Excerpt:
.....case in which the licensee has made a request in writing to the consumer for a deposit with the electrical inspector of the amount of the licensee's charges or other sums in dispute or for the deposit of the licensee's further charges for energy as they accrue, and the consumer has failed to comply with such request. the opening sentence of this sub-rule (3) makes it clear that it governs all the appeals filed under the act or the rules because it clearly says that every appeal shall be in writing, shall be accompanied by a copy of the order appealed against and shall be presented within three months of the date of the service of such order. sub-rule (3) of rule 6 regulates the filing of an appeal under the provisions of the act as well as the provisions of the rules. in such..........rules, 1956, while exercising its power conferred by section 37 of the 1910 act, and in these rules rule 6 is the rule which relates to the filing of appeals. rule 6 reads as follows:'rule 6. appeals.-- (1) an appeal against an order served under sub-rule (4) of rule 5 shall lie- (a) if the order is served by an officer appointed to assist an inspector, to the inspector; (b) if the order is served by an inspector, to the central government or the state government, as the case may be. (2) in the case of an order of an inspector on an appeal preferred to him under clause (a) of sub-rule (1), a further appeal shall lie to the central government or the state government, as the case may be. (3) every appeal shall be in writing, shall be accompanied by a copy of the order appealed against.....
Judgment:
ORDER

V.P. Tyagi, J.

1. The Rajasthan State Electricity Board (hereinafter called the Board) has filed this writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution challenging the order of the State Government dated 13th of November, 1968, passed in appeal upholding the award dated 14th August, 1967, given by the Electrical Inspector under Section 24(2) of the Indian Electricity Act, 1910, in a dispute raised by respondent No. 3 Shri Govind Singh Mehta, proprietor of the Chitra Cinema at Mehta Market, Jodhpur.

2. The facts giving rise to this dispute are, in a nutshell, as follows:

The Board used to supply electricity to respondent No. 3 at two separate points and at different voltage. The consumption of electricity was measured by the Board by installing two separate meters, one for light and the other for power, and the Board charged electricity consumed for light at the rate of 40 P. per unit while the supply of power was charged at the rate of 13.5 P. per unit. In 1964 the Board prescribed a new Tariff for the supply of electricity but till June, 1966, the Board continued to charge from the respondent at the old rates. It was in the month of July, 1966, that for the first time the Board decided to charge from respondent No. 3 at the rate of 29 P. per unit for the consumption recorded by both the meters. Having felt aggrieved by the application of new rates the proprietor of Chitra Cinema raised objections and ultimately the matter was referred to the Electrical Inspector under Section 24(2) of the Indian Electricity Act, 1910. The Electrical Inspector, after hearing both the parties, gave his award on 14th of August; 1967, and held that the application of tariff schedule HS/ML/LT-3 above 10 KW and upto 100 KW cannot apply to respondent No. 8 as long as there were two meters installed at two separate metering points, that is, one for light consumption (service No. 5660) and another for power consumption (service No. 5661).

3. Having felt aggrieved by this award, the Board filed an appeal under Section 36(2) of the 1910 Act before the Government on 19th of January, 1968. The Government by its order dated 13th of November, 1968, held that the appeal preferred by the Board was barred by time and, therefore, it was dismissed on that ground. The Board then filed a review application before the Government but that review was also dismissed on the ground that the Government had no authority to review its order. This order is signed by the Commissioner and Secretary of Irrigation and Power of the Government of Bajasthan and is dated 20th of April, 1970 (Ex. F). The petitioner Board has challenged the award given by the Electrical Inspector and the orders passed by the Government in appeal and in review, inter alia, on the grounds that the Electrical Inspector had no jurisdiction to entertain any dispute of the nature which was raised by Shri Govind Singh Mehta before him and that Rule 6 (3) prescribing three months period of limitation for filing an appeal does not cover the appeal preferred under Section 36(2) of the 1910 Act. It was also contended that the only tariff which is available for the purpose of supplying energies to cinemas consuming electricity above 10 KW upto 100 KW is at item No. 3 of the schedule prescribed by the Board in the year 1964 and according to this tariff the Board was entitled to charge 29 P. per kwh for the consumption of electricity for running the cinema by respondent No. 3.

4. This petition has been vehemently opposed by respondent No. 3 as well as by the State Government.

5. The questions raised in this petition call for the determination of the scope of Sub-rule (3) of Rule 6 of the Indian Electricity Rules, 1956, and also about the powers of the Electrical Inspector whether the dispute of the nature raised by respondent No. 3 can be referred to him under the provisions of Section 24 of the 1910 Act and whether the appeal preferred against the award given by the Electrical Inspector under Section 36(2) of that Act is governed by Sub-rule (3) of Rule 6 of the 1956 Rules.

6. Since this petition can be disposed of while deciding the aforesaid two questions which are purely questions of law, I need not go into the merits of the case whether the tariff at serial No. 3 on page 3 of the tariff for the supply of electricity issued by the Rajasthan State Electricity Board will apply to the case of respondent No. 3 or not. Section 24 of the Indian Electricity Act, 1910, read as follows:

Section 24. (1) Where any person neglects to pay any charge for energy or any sum, other than a charge for energy, due from him to a licensee in respect of the supply of energy to him, the licensee may, after giving not less than seven clear days' notice in writing to such person and without prejudice to his right to receive such charge or other sum by suit, cut off the supply and for that purpose cut or disconnect any electric supply-line or other works, being the property of the licensee, through which energy may be supplied, and may discontinue the supply until such charge or other sum, together with any expenses incurred by him in cutting off and re-connecting the supply, are paid, but no longer.

(2) Where any difference or dispute which by or under this Act is required to be determined by an Electrical Inspector, has been referred to the Inspector before notice as aforesaid has been given by the licensee, the licensee shall not exercise the powers conferred by this section until the Inspector has given his decision: Provided that the prohibition contained in this sub-section shall not apply in any case in which the licensee has made a request in writing to the consumer for a deposit with the Electrical Inspector of the amount of the licensee's charges or other sums in dispute or for the deposit of the licensee's further charges for energy as they accrue, and the consumer has failed to comply with such request.'

7. Sub-section (1) of this section lays down that if any person neglects to pay any charge for energy, then the licensee shall be at liberty to cut off the supply and for that purpose the licensee can cut or dis-connect any electric supply line or other works, being the property of the licensee, through which energy is supplied and may discontinue the supply until such charge or other sum, together with any expenses incurred by him in cutting off and re-connecting the supply are paid. Sub-section (2), which is under challenge, however, makes it clear that before a notice under Sub-section (1) to cut-off the supply is issued to a consumer, if the consumer raises a dispute regarding the charges which are required to be paid by him, then such a dispute could be determined by an Electrical Inspector. Whether a particular tariff, on the basis of which a demand has been raised by the Board, applies to a particular consumer or not, is a matter which is covered by the provisions of Sub-section (2) of Section 24 because a consumer can raise a dispute that the charge demanded under Sub-section (1) is not due from him as it has been calculated on the basis of a wrong tariff which is not applicable to him, and before a notice for the discontinuance of the supply is given to the consumer under Sub-section (1) of Section 34, the consumer is at liberty to raise the dispute and refer it to the Electrical Inspector. In my opinion, this argument of Mr. Gupta that such a dispute cannot be referred to an Electrical Inspector as was raised by respondent No. 3 in this case has no foundation.

8. Sub-section (1) of Section 36 of the Act deals with the appointment of Electrical Inspectors, and by enacting Subsection (2) a right has been given to an aggrieved party to prefer an appeal against the decision or an Electrical Inspector to the appropriate Government, or if the appropriate Government, by general or special order so directs, to an Advisory Board. This section simply confers a right to file an appeal against the decision of the Electrical Inspector to the appropriate Government or to the Advisory Board, as the case may be, but does not further provide the mode of filing an appeal and the limitation in which such an appeal should be preferred. The Central Electricity Board has framed the Indian Electricity Rules, 1956, while exercising its power conferred by Section 37 of the 1910 Act, and in these Rules Rule 6 is the rule which relates to the filing of appeals. Rule 6 reads as follows:

'Rule 6. Appeals.-- (1) An appeal against an order served under Sub-rule (4) of Rule 5 shall lie-

(a) if the order is served by an officer appointed to assist an Inspector, to the Inspector;

(b) if the order is served by an Inspector, to the Central Government or the State Government, as the case may be.

(2) In the case of an order of an Inspector on an appeal preferred to him under Clause (a) of Sub-rule (1), a further appeal shall lie to the Central Government or the State Government, as the case may be.

(3) Every appeal shall be in writing, shall be accompanied by a copy of the order appealed against and shall be presented within three months of the date of the service of such order.'

9. The contention of Mr. Gupta is that Sub-rule (3) of Rule 6 governs only those appeals which are preferred under Sub-rule (1) and Sub-rule (2) of this Rule and it does not provide the manner and mode for preferring an appeal under Section 36(2) of the Act. He could not point out any other provision which may prescribe the manner and mode for filing an appeal under Section 36(2) of the Act His argument is that an appeal under Section 36(2) of the Act can be preferred any time and in any manner in the absence of any law of limitation prescribed therefor.

10. On a careful perusal of Rule 6 it becomes clear that Sub-rule (1) and Sub-rule (2) deal with the right of filing an appeal under certain circumstances mentioned therein. These two Sub-rules relate to the right of filing an appeal under certain circumstances which are not covered by Section 36(2) of the Act. Sub-rule (3), however, is a general rule and it deals with the manner and mode of filing every appeal whether preferred under Sub-rules (1) and (2) of Rule 6 or under Section 36(2) of the Act. The opening sentence of this Sub-rule (3) makes it clear that it governs all the appeals filed under the Act or the Rules because it clearly says that every appeal shall be in writing, shall be accompanied by a copy of the order appealed against and shall be presented within three months of the date of the service of such order. The words 'every appeal' indicate that the rule making authority wanted to make this Sub-rule applicable to all the appeals filed under the provisions of the Act and the Rules. The application of Sub-rule (3) cannot, therefore, be restricted only to those appeals which are preferred under Sub-rule (1) and Sub-rule (2). In my opinion, the law of limitation prescribed by Sub-rule (3) and the mode of preferring an appeal would govern the appeal preferred under Section 36(2) of the Act also.

11. An attempt was made by Mr. Gupta to urge that the rule-making authority had no power to make a rule in the nature of Sub-rule (3) of Rule 6 under the provisions of Section 37 which empowered the Central Electricity Board to frame the rules. His contention is that the power of framing Sub-rule (3) cannot be derived from any of the clauses in Sub-section (2) of Section 37 and, therefore, if Rule 6 (3) applies to an appeal preferred under Section 36(2), then this is ultra vires the Section 37 of the Act. I regret, I cannot accept this contention in view of the language of Sub-section (1) which confers a wide power on the Central Electricity Board to make rules to regulate the generation, transmission, supply and use of energy and generally to carry out the purposes and objects of this Act. This is a general power under which the Central Electricity Board can frame any rule to give effect to the provisions of the Act. Sub-rule (3) of Rule 6 regulates the filing of an appeal under the provisions of the Act as well as the provisions of the Rules. It is a general rule which governs all the appeals whether filed under the Act or the Rules, and such a rule could be framed by the Central Electricity Board under, the general power of Section 37(1) of the Act. Sub-section (2), however, does not take away that general power because the very words used in Sub-section (2) make it clear that the clauses that have been enacted under Sub-section (2) are without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power contained in Sub-section (1). In this view of the matter, the contention raised by Mr. Gupta cannot be accepted.

12. It may be observed that the Board could not explain the delay caused in filing the appeal before the State Government after the period of limitation had expired. Even before this Court no reasonable explanation could be brought forward to justify the delay. In such circumstances, this Court in the exercise of its extraordinary jurisdiction cannot entertain the writ petition of the Board challenging the award after such a long time when the alternative remedy was available to the Board under the provisions of the Act and that remedy could not successfully be resorted to by the Board for reasons best known to it.

13. In such circumstances, the writ petition fails and it is hereby dismissed with costs.


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