1. Petitioner is the plaintiff in O. S. No. 267 of 1966, on the file of the District Munsif's Court, Srivilliputtur. The respondent, the Madras State Electricity Board, found on inspection of the plaintiff's premises on 3rd July 1958 and 1st December 1964 that seven lights of 40 watts each had been connected with power service in order to have the benefit of lower tariff. The test reports Exs. B-3 and B-4 were disputed by the petitioner on the ground that the signature of P.W. 1, its Managing partner, were obtained on blank forms. But the courts below negatived the said contention and relied on the test reports and the evidence of the Junior Engineer examined as the sole witness on the side of the Board. There is no ground to interfere with the findings of fact in this respect.
2. The learned advocate for the petitioner, however, urged that there is no proof that the lights were burning, apart from the evidence of D.W. 1, the Junior Engineer, who made the inspection on 1st December 1964 and claimed to have gone to the premises on some other occasions. It should be noted that the petitioner's case in the plaint is that the petitioner's case in the plaint is that the seven light of 40 watts are not connected with power service,. and not that the lights, if so connected, were not burning before it could ask for any refund of the charges on the ground of illegal levy, if its claim is based on the ground that there was no foundation for it.
3. The more substantial question regarding the legality of the levy turns on the period of limitation within which the claim could have been made by the Board. It is an undisputed fact that the respondent-Board came into existence on 1st July 1957. It appears from the judgment of the trial court that the Board relied on Section 60-A of the Electricity (Supply) Amendment Act, 1966 (Act XXX of 1966) as enabling the Board to recover amounts due to it within three years of the Act coming into force in 1966. But a plain reading of the section clearly shows that the period of limitation extended, under that section is only in respect of any amount due to the State Government for or in connection with the consumption of electricity, the right to recover whereof was vested in the Board. But, in this case, the entire claim for electricity charges arose during the period subsequent to the Board coming into existence. Thus, there was no case of 'any amount due to the State Government' vesting in the Board in order to attract Section 60-A of Act XXX of 1966. The trial court has, therefore, erred in finding that the levy was not barred by limitation. The lower appellate court has considered it 'unnecessary' to go into the question whether the right to recover the amount form the petitioner was barred by limitation in or about February 1966. This is clearly wrong, as it is the duty of the court to have gone into the question to find out whether the levy was legal. The contention put forward by the plaintiff in paragraph IX of the plaint that the demand for the period 3rd July 1958 to 14th February 1963 is clearly time-barred is correct. The levy of the electricity charges for the said period is clearly illegal and the amount having been paid under protest, the petitioner is entitled to recover the same by virtue of Section 72 of the Indian Contract Act. it cannot be disputed that electricity is 'goods' and that the suit by the Board will be governed by Art.14 or 15 of the Indian Limitation Act, 1963. The petitioner who has been made to pay the illegal levy under protest, is entitled to get a refund of the said amount.
4. For the foregoing reason the Civil Revision Petition is allowed to this extent, namely, that the petitioner shall be entitled to recover the electricity charges illegally collected from it for the period 3rd July 1958 to 14th February 1963. Having regard to the fact that each party has succeeded in part. I direct the parties to bear their respective costs in this court and the courts below.
5. Parties are permitted to file a joint Memo within two weeks showing the exact amount of electricity charges collected from the petitioner during the period 3rd July 1958 and 14th February 1963.
6. Petition allowed