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The Palghat Electric Corporation Ltd. Vs. T.N. Veeraraghava Aiyar - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectElectricity
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported inAIR1941Mad439; (1941)1MLJ411
AppellantThe Palghat Electric Corporation Ltd.
RespondentT.N. Veeraraghava Aiyar
Cases ReferredRajahmundry v. Subba Rao
Excerpt:
.....import and export dealings with foreign countries, while 'trade',signifies mercantile operations on a smaller scale within the country itself. ' i am of opinion that the classification in the rule is clearly intended to include premises where business such as that of the respondent is carried on. the company were admittedly bound by the terms of their undertaking to supply electric energy according to the rates provided for the various classes of premises as classified in these rules, and if the respondent's premises fell within the description of 'commercial premises',he was entitled to claim supply of energy at the favourable rate of three annas per unit and any sum charged in excess must clearly be refunded to him. the circumstances in which the payments were made are clearly..........fixing rates for supply of electric energy was intended to be understood in contradistinction to 'trade premises.' i am of opinion that the classification in the rule is clearly intended to include premises where business such as that of the respondent is carried on. it would indeed be odd if the provision of the cheaper rate of charge were intended for big export and import houses of which there may be few or none in the place which the petitioner's undertaking was intended to serve and not for the benefit of the numerous shops and other business premises which are to be found in the locality. the adjective 'commercial' is commonly used in a wide sense, without any exclusive reference to large scale international operations of export or import. i think therefore that 'commercial.....
Judgment:

Patanjali Sastri, J.

1. This is a revision petition preferred by the Palghat Electric Corporation Limited against the decree directing the refund to the respondent, a consumer of electricity in Palghat town, of the over-charge alleged to have been collected from him.

2. Two contentions have been urged for the petitioner, namely (1) that the premises where the respondent is running a coffee hotel cannot be regarded as 'commercial premises' so as to fall under Rule 1, Clause (e) of Part II of the Rules relating to the terms and conditions under which the petitioner-company supplies electric energy in the town of Palghat and (2) that the alleged excess payments made by the respondent to the petitioner-company from 14th February, 1934 till 27th February, 1935 were voluntary payments and therefore are not recoverable.

3. Learned Counsel for the petitioner argued that the term 'commercial premises' must be understood in the light of the well-marked distinction between the terms 'commerce' and 'trade'. 'Commerce' it was said, denotes large scale import and export dealings with foreign countries, while 'trade', signifies mercantile operations on a smaller scale within the country itself. Counsel referred in support of this contention to Wharton's Law Lexicon and Oxford English Dictionary. I am unable to accept this contention. Whatever may be the distinction in meaning between the terms 'commerce' and 'trade', I cannot agree that the term 'commercial premises' used in classifying tenements for purposes of fixing rates for supply of electric energy was intended to be understood in contradistinction to 'trade premises.' I am of opinion that the classification in the Rule is clearly intended to include premises where business such as that of the respondent is carried on. It would indeed be odd if the provision of the cheaper rate of charge were intended for big export and import houses of which there may be few or none in the place which the petitioner's undertaking was intended to serve and not for the benefit of the numerous shops and other business premises which are to be found in the locality. The adjective 'commercial' is commonly used in a wide sense, without any exclusive reference to large scale international operations of export or import. I think therefore that 'commercial premises' means in the context of the classification rules nothing more than premises used for purposes of business.

4. The second contention of petitioner's learned Counsel seems to me to be equally untenable. The correspondence that passed between the company and the respondent (Exs. I, I-a, II and II-a) leaves no room for doubt that the respondent claimed from the beginning of the period in question that he should be charged no more than the 'commercial rate' of three annas per unit and was not prepared to pay anything more for the supply of electric energy to his premises. The company replied that the respondent's 'request' was under consideration and it was only in May, 1935, more than a year after the respondent raised the question, that the company definitely informed him that his premises could not be classed as 'commercial premises'. In these circumstances, the higher rate charged and paid in the meantime could only be regarded as payments made under protest and not voluntary payments. The company were admittedly bound by the terms of their undertaking to supply electric energy according to the rates provided for the various classes of premises as classified in these rules, and if the respondent's premises fell within the description of 'commercial premises', he was entitled to claim supply of energy at the favourable rate of three annas per unit and any sum charged in excess must clearly be refunded to him. It is settled law that over-charges made in violation of an obligation imposed upon public utility companies to charge only at certain specified rates are recoverable as 'money had and received'. See Parker v. The Great Western Railway Co. (1844) 7 M G. 253 : 135 E.R. 107 where it was held that payments 'made in order to induce the company (a railway company) to do that which they were bound to do without them' were not voluntary.

5. The petitioner's counsel relied upon, Chairman, Municipal Council, Rajahmundry v. Subba Rao : (1937)1MLJ496 which related to payments of profession tax to a Municipal Council. The circumstances in which the payments were made are clearly distinguishable from those of the present case. The decision, therefore, has no application.

6. The Civil Revision Petition fails and is dismissed with costs.


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