Electricity Laws made simple
By Advocate Jose J Matheikel , 35/411A North Janathe YMJ Road, Palrivattom, Kochi-25 . Mobile- 09447811865, 0484 2336284.
Electricity is an invisible thing which is the basis for all modern developments. Electricity is a subject included in the concurrent list of our Constitution and hence the Central Government and State Government can make laws on Electricity. The Electricity Act 2003 hereinafter referred to for short as Act 2003 came into force in India on 10.6.2003. Scheme of Act 2003 is entirely different from the earlier Indian Electricity Act 1910, which is repealed as per Section 185 of the Act 2003. The purpose of the new Act is to consolidate the laws relating to generation, transmission, distribution, trading and use of Electricity, to develop Electricity Industry, to promote competition therein, to protect interests of consumers and to supply electricity to all areas, to rationalize electricity tariff to ensure transparent policies regarding subsidies etc.
Implementation in Kerala
Eventhough the Act 2003 came into force on 10.6.2003, as per Section 172 of the above Act, the State Government is empowered to declare that any or all the provisions contained in the Act shall not apply in the State for such period, not exceeding six months from the above appointed date namely 10.6.2003. In exercise of the above power, the Government of Kerala issued GO(P) No.28/2003/PD dated 23.8.2003 (SRO No.799 of 2003) declaring that all the provisions contained in the Electricity Act, 2003 except Section 1, Section 121 and Section 172 (d) shall not apply in the State of Kerala for six months from the appointed date. Consequent to the above notification, all the important provisions of the Act 2003 were implemented in Kerala, only with effect from 10.12.2003.
The Act 2003 envisages a statutory obligation for the State Government and the Central Government to jointly endeavor to provide access to electricity to all areas including villages and hamlets through rural electricity infrastructure and electrification of households. As per section 43 of the Act 2003, save as otherwise provided in this Act, every distribution licensee shall on an application by the owner or occupier of any premises, give supply of electricity to such premises within one month after receipt of the application requiring such supply. It is further stated in the above provision that if such supply requires extension of distribution mains or commissioning of new substations, the licensee shall supply the electricity to such premises immediately after such extension or commissioning or within such period as may be specified by the appropriate commission. The word application in the above provision is explained as the application complete in all respects in the appropriate form as required by the distribution licensee along with documents showing payment of necessary charges and other compliances. The above provision also states that if the distribution licensee fails to supply the electricity within the period specified above as applied for by the owner or occupier of a premises, he shall be liable to pay a penalty which may extend to Rs.1000/- for each day of default . In Kerala, the Kerala State Electricity Board is one of the licensees to distribute electricity to the applicants. Therefore the delay beyond one month from the date of application for supply of electricity will make the Board liable to pay penalty to the applicant. The exception provided under the Act 2003 from effecting connection as above is only in such a situation where the licensee is prevented from giving connection by cyclone, floods, storms or other occurrences beyond its control.
Charges , Expenditure, Meter
As per Section 45 of the Act, 2003, the State Electricity Regulatory commission is entitled to fix the charges for electricity supplied by a distribution licensee and the licensee is entitled to recover such charges, which are so fixed by the Commission. As per Sections 46 and 47 of the Act the distribution licensee is empowered to recover the expenditure for providing electric connection and also to collect adequate security as determined by the commission. The supply of Electricity by a licensee shall be through a correct meter in accordance with the regulations framed by the authority. Unless the consumer elects to purchase a meter, the licensee is entitled to require him to give security for the price of the meter and to enter into an agreement for the hire of the same.
As per Section 56 of the Act 2003, the licensee will be entitled to cut off the supply of electricity in a case where the consumer neglects to pay any charge for electricity or any sum other than a charge for electricity due from him to a licensee in respect of supply, transmission or distribution or wheeling of electricity to him, after giving fifteen clear days notice in writing and without prejudice to the right of licensee to recover such sum by suit . But no such disconnection shall be effected if the consumer deposits under protest an amount equal to the sum claimed from him or the electricity charges due from him for each month calculated on the basis of average charge for electricity paid by him during the preceding six months whichever is less, pending disposal of any dispute between him and the licensee. In other words in a situation where a consumer is issued with a huge bill for a particular month he can raise a dispute with regard to that bill by remitting the average charge for the electricity paid by him during the preceding six months. Moreover after the coming into force of the Electricity Act, 2003 ,the licensee cannot recover any sum due from any consumer after two years from the date when such sum became first due unless such sum has been shown continuously as recoverable as arrear of charges for electricity supplied. In other words after 10.12.2003, if a demand was issued by the KSEB and the same was not paid by the consumer, the same cannot be recovered from the consumer after two years of the said demand.
Electricity Supply Code
So far as the State of Kerala is concerned the Kerala State Electricity Regulatory commission which is constituted under the provisions of the Electricity Act 2003, has framed the Electricity Supply Code in exercise of the power granted to it under Section 50 of the Electricity Act 2003. The above provision authorizes the commission to specify an Electricity Supply Code to provide for recovery of electricity charges, intervals for billing of electricity charges, disconnection of supply of electricity for non payment thereof, restoration of supply of electricity, measures for preventing tampering, distress or damage to electrical plant or electrical line or meter, entry of distribution licensee or any person acting on his behalf for disconnecting supply and removing the meter, entry for replacing, altering or maintaining electric lines or electrical plants or meter and such other matters. The Electricity Supply Code 2005 which is made in exercise of the above statutory provision came to force in Kerala on 2.3.2005.
System of Supply
The system of supply of electrical energy can be done by the licensee in the following manners. A single phase connection can have maximum supply voltage of 240 volts and maximum connected load of 5KW. The maximum supply voltage of three phase line is 415 volts and its maximum connected load is 100 KVA . These two supplies under single phase and three phase are called Low tension (LT ) connections which is otherwise called common man’s connection. The supplies above this level are called High tension connections. Supply at 11KV voltage is having maximum contract demand of 3000 KVA, supply at 22KV/33KV is having maximum contract demand 6000 KVA, supply at 110KV is having maximum contract demand 8000KVA, supply at 110 KV have maximum contract demand 20000 KVA and 220 KV above 20000 KVA. High tension line connections are supplied to industrial units etc.
Electricity connection, Property crossing disputes etc..
The application fee required for supply under Low Tension is Rs. 25, under High Tension is Rs.1000 and under E.H.T is Rs.5000. On receipt of a valid application in prescribed form available from office of the licensee on payment of application fee, the licensee shall intimate the defects if any in the application to the applicant within 7 days of receipt of the application in writing. If any extension of distribution main or construction of sub station is required for the purpose of effecting the said connection, the licensee shall intimate the same to the applicant within 7 days from the date of receipt of the application. In case of any property crossing for the purpose of drawing the line, the applicants shall attach a consent letter from the owner of such property to be crossed. In the absence of such consent, or when that property owner raises and objection to the drawal of the said line through his property, the property-crossing dispute has to be referred to the District Collector/ Additional District Magistrate for the purpose of resolving the dispute under Section 10 and 16 of the Indian Telegraph Act. The licensee shall not be responsible for the delay if any in extending the supply if the same is on account of the delay in getting statutory clearances, right of way, land acquisition, or the delay in consumers obligation to provide necessary clearances or payment of required cost of work and security deposit or for any other similar reasons beyond the reasonable control of the licensee. But in all the above cases, the licensee shall take all reasonable steps to avoid delay. There is a further duty on the part of the licensee to make sure that the applicant has complied with all requirements regarding the safety as per the existing law. The licensee is entitled to recover the expenditure reasonably incurred by the licensee for providing any electric line or electrical plant required specifically for the purpose of giving the supply except in cases
1. Where the expenditure is incurred under the scheme approved by the commission or otherwise charged in the annual revenue requirement of the licensee
2. Where no extension of distribution main is required.
3. Where the connection is for a person below poverty line requiring connected load below 500 watts and
4. Where the connection is for a person belonging to SC/ST category requiring supply with a connected load below 1000 watts.
The cost estimate for LT consumers shall include the cost of service line and terminal arrangements at the premises of the applicant but shall not include the cost of the meter if the connected load is below 50 KVA. For loads above 50 KVA, a separate transformer of adequate capacity shall be installed at the cost of the consumer and in the space provided by the consumer. In the case of HT consumers the licensee shall include the cost of service line, terminal arrangements and transformers specifically required for the applicant but shall not include the cost of the meter. In all cases where extension of the distribution mains are not required, the connection shall be effected within a period of one month from the receipt of completed application from the consumer. The priority of releasing the connection shall be the date of remittance of the required expenses and security deposit. The Electricity Supply Code 2005 also stipulates certain time frame for completing the works by the licensee in cases which require extension of distribution mains from the date of receipt of the required amount from the applicant as mentioned below.
Type of work Unit Time frame
1. LT line perKilometer 30days
2. 11 KV LINE Per kilo meter 4 months
3. 66 KV / 110 KV Up to 1st 5 KM 1 year
next 5 km each 3 months
4. 220 KV line up to 1st 5 km 2 year
next 5 Kilo meter each 6 months
High rise buildings
In the case of connections to multi-storied high rise building having height more than 15 meters connection from LT line can be granted to connected load up to 50 KVA and beyond that the connection shall be effected through a separate transformer. Such connections shall be effected only with the prior permission from Electrical Inspector.
Delay on the part of consumer to take connection
In a case where there is delay on the part of the applicant to take the connection after the licensee has completed the work, the licensee shall serve a notice on the applicant directing him to take the supply within 60 days in the case of LT consumers and within 90 days in the case of H.T. and E.H.T consumers. Even after the service of such notice, if the applicant fails to take the supply; the licensee is entitled to charge fixed/ minimum charges from the consumer.
Section 47 of the Act 2003 empowers the licensee to collect security deposit from the consumers and the manner in which security deposit is to be collected from the consumers is prescribed in the Supply Code. An amount equivalent to two months electricity bill shall be collected as security deposit from the monthly billing consumers such as industrial units and an amount equivalent to three months electricity bills shall be collected as security deposit from bimonthly billing consumers such as domestic consumers etc. The licensee shall review the adequacy of security of all the consumers in the first quarter of every financial year and additional cash deposit can be levied if there is shortage of security. The licensee is also entitled to collect security for the price of the meter and also to collect rent for the same; unless the consumer purchases his own meter . With effect from 1-4-2005, the licensee is bound to pay the interest on security deposit to the consumer at bank rate prevailing as on the 1st date of April of the financial year
Limitation on collection of charges
On request by the consumer, the licensee is bound to supply a copy of the tariff order and schedule of miscellaneous charges to the consumer. There is a duty on the part of the licensee to deliver the bill for the electricity consumed by the consumer to the consumer by hand, by post or courier or by any electronic means. The licensee is not entitled to recover any arrears after a period of two years from the date when such sum became first due, unless such sum has been shown continuously in the bill as recoverable as arrears of charges of electricity supplied. The bill shall be served within seven days from the meter reading date and the bill date shall not be more than four days from meter reading date.
Estimation in case of meter fault
If on account of non recording or malfunctioning of a meter, the licensee is unable to base a bill on meter reading, the licensee shall issue a bill based on the previous six months average consumption and the meter shall be replaced within one month. When the licensee issues a bill which covers a period or a period during which tariff changes, the bill shall be issued on prorata (distributing for separate periods) basis for separate relevant periods, showing the relevant details in the bill.
Door locked conditions
In a case where the meter reading cannot be taken on account of the premises being locked up or made inaccessible, the consumer shall be provisionally charged the average consumption for the last six months. In the second instance of locked up premises, 24 hours notice shall be given to the consumer to keep open the premises on a particular date and time and in case of failure on the part of the consumer to do so, the supply shall be disconnected with due notice. On taking the meter reading the consumer shall be charged for the whole consumption since last reading after deducting the charges already paid.
When consumer is out of station
On the request of the consumer stating that he is out of station and the supply to his premises shall not be disconnected, the licensee shall not disconnect the supply provided the consumer agrees to pay fixed / minimum charges.
The bill issued by the licensee shall contain the bill date, name and address of the issuing office of the licensee, name of the consumer, address, consumer number, period covered by the bill, type of service and energy, relevant tariff applicable to the consumer, energy consumption and other billing parameters such as contract demand connected load, power factor etc. The bill should also contain the applicable charges namely fixed charges, energy charges, taxes, rebate, adjustments, interests and arrears, the net amount payable, the due date of payment, summary of payment methods, date of disconnection if payment is not made, service center of the licensee for seeking clarification, designation and address of the authorities of the licensee with whom complaints/grievances of the consumer to be lodged, contact details of the Consumer grievance redressal forum and Ombudsman constituted under Section 42 of the Act. The payment of the bill shall be made by the consumer within the stipulated time limit. If the consumer wants to make advance payment towards electricity charges the same shall be allowed by the licensee and if such advance amount is equivalant to the security deposit with the licensee no separate demand for security deposit shall be made by the licensee from the consumer. A payment made by the consumer shall be adjusted in the following order of priority.
1. Interest on electricity duty arrears
2. Electricity duty arrears
3. Interest on Electricity charge arrears
4. Electricity charge arrears
5. Current month dues.
Installment facility for remitting arrears
In case of any difficulty on the part of the consumer in paying the arrear bill in full, the licensee may offer installment payment offer to the consumer without prejudice to the additional charges applicable for delayed payment. In case of delayed payment, penal interest at twice the bank rate based on actual number of days of delay from due date may be charged by the licensee. Bank rate means the rate at which the Reserve Bank of India is prepared to buy or to rediscount bills of exchange or other commercial paper eligible for purchase under the RBI Act 1934.
Disputes regarding bill
The complaint regarding the accuracy of the bill shall be made in writing to the designated officer of the licensee (Asst Engineer concerned) who issued the bill. So arithmetical mistakes on the face of the bill alone shall be corrected by the officer who issued the bill. In the case of complaints other than the arithmetical calculation errors on the face of the record of the bill, the same shall be submitted by the consumer to officers not below the rank of Executive Engineer in respect of LT consumers and Deputy chief Engineer in respect of HT/EHT consumers. If in the review of the bill, it was found that the consumer was over charged, the amount overcharged along with interest at twice the bank rate shall be adjusted in the subsequent bill by the licensee. In the revised bill, the licensee shall specify the amount to be recovered as a separate item in the consumers next bill with details as a separate bill and no interest shall be charged on the amount under charged and may also allow installment facility for making payment. The licensee is also bound to inform or advise the consumer in writing about his right to prefer an application against the decision of the licensee to the Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum and further appeal to the Ombudsman. In case it is established that there was undercharging from a consumer, at least 30 days time shall be given for the consumer to make payment against such bill . On the other hand if it is established that the licensee has overcharged the consumer, the excess amount shall be repaid within two months with interest at twice the bank rate.
Unauthorized use of Electricity
Unauthorized use of electricity means the usage of Electricity by any artificial means, by a means not authorized by the concerned person or authority or licensee or through a tampered meter or for the purpose other than for which the usage of electricity was authorized or for the premises or other than those for which the supply of Electricity was authorized. So unauthorized use of Electricity is the usage of electricity by any one of the above mentioned methods. If such an unauthorized use is detected, the assessing officer can provisionally assess to the best of his judgment the Electricity Charges payable by such person or by any other person benefited by such use. Such assessment shall be made for the entire period during which such unauthorized use of Electricity has taken place and if however, the period during which such unauthorized use of electricity has taken place cannot be ascertained such period shall be limited to a period of 12 months immediately preceding the date of inspection. Therefore the consumers are liable to be provisionally assessed for the entire period during which the unauthorized dues of electricity has taken place and the same shall be limited to a period of 12 months immediately preceding the date of inspection only if the period during which such unauthorized use has taken place cannot be ascertained. The assessment for unauthorized loss shall be made at a rate equal to two times the tariff applicable for the relevant category of service. Such order of provisional assessment shall be served by the licensee on the person in occupation or possession or in charge of the place or premises and such person shall be entitled to file objection if any against such provisional assessment before the assessing officer who issued the provisional assessment. On receipt of the objection, the assessing officer may pass a final order of assessment of the electricity charges payable by such person, after affording a reasonable opportunity of hearing to such person. If such person is aggrieved by such final order, he can prefer an appeal before the appellate authority within period of 30 days from the said order. The liability to pay interest at the rate of 16% per annum compounded every six months arises only in a case where a person default in making payment of the assessed amount on the expiry of 30 days from the date of order of assessment. As on the very same date he is entitled to prefer an appeal before the appellate authority on payment of half of the assessed amount. Therefore the liability to
pay interest can be said to arise only in a case where an appeal is not filed against the final assessment order.
Power of licensee to enter the premises of consumer
Any person authorized by the licensee with proper identification card may at any reasonable time and upon informing the occupier about his intention, enter any premises to which electricity is supplied by him for the purpose of taking meter reading, inspecting, testing, repairing or altering the electric supply line, meters , works and apparatus or for the purpose of removing any electric supply lines, meters, fitting etc where a supply of electricity is no more required or in pursuance of an order issued by the Executive Magistrate in this regard. When the consumer refuses to allow a licensee or a person authorized by him to enter the premises or refuses to allow him to perform any act which he is legally authorized , the licensee may after expiring of 24 hours from the service of the notice in writing on the consumer, disconnect the supply for so long as the refusal continues but no longer.
The notice issued to a consumer by the licensee shall be in writing in English or Malayalam specifying the reason for the notice and the likely action by the licensee with a request to the consumer to contact the local officer of the licensee. The notice shall be served by registered post/under certificate of posting by courier or other similar means, delivered by hand to the person residing at consumers address. The communication shall be through special messenger by telegraphic message, by fax or by E-mail.
The supply to a consumer shall be disconnected
1. At the request of the consumer.
2. Licensee is bound to disconnect with legal authority.
3. Licensee is entitled to do so under an agreement with the consumer.
4. Licensee reasonably believes that consumer has acted against the provisions of Law, which entitle the licensee to disconnect the supply.
5. The licensee believes that the failure to disconnect may cause health hazard for safety risk or damage to property or to consumer or to any other person.
6. Licensee believes that the installation of the consumer does not comply with applicable rules or any other requirements prescribed the licensee.
7. For non payment of dues on electricity charges
8. Failure to furnish additional security as required by the licensee
9. Found to have tampered or damaged the electric plant or meter of the licensee.
10. found to have committed theft of electricity by any means
In the case of an issue regarding nonpayment of electricity charges the disconnection shall be done after giving not less than 15 clear days notice in writing to the consumer stating that he has defaulted the payment by the due date, notifying the consumer that failure to pay the amount due will entitle the licensee to restrict supply and also outlining the availability for payment options and installment.
Theft of Electricity
Theft of Electricity is charged against persons who dishonestly taps makes or causes to be made any connection with Over Head, Underground cables etc or service wires or tampers a meter ,installs or uses tampered meter, current reversing transformer, loop connection or any other device which interferes with accurate or proper registration, calibration or metering of electric current or otherwise results in a manner by which electricity is stolen or wasted or damages or destroy an electric meter or apparatus equipment or wire so as to interfere with proper metering of electricity. When theft of electricity is so detected the supply shall be disconnected forthwith by such officer of the licensee as authorized for the purpose by the appropriate commission or any other officer of the licensee or supplier as the case may be of the rank higher than the rank so authorized. In other words only an officer authorized by the Commission or any officer of the licensee above the rank of such authorized officer can disconnect supply on detection of theft. Within 24 hours from the time of such disconnection, the licensee or the supplier shall lodge a complaint in writing regarding the commission of such an offence before the police station having jurisdiction. On payment of the assessed amount of electricity charges, the supply to the consumer shall be restored within 48 hrs of such deposit or payment without prejudice to the obligation to lodge a compliant to the police. The value of electricity abstracted on account of theft shall be estimated for a period of six months or for such other period as may be deemed justify in the circumstance of any given case at 1 ½ times (now 2 times) the rate of tariff applicable to such category of installation or at two times the normal tariff applicable for the purpose for which the energy is obstructed, which ever is higher and demand and collect the same by including the same in the next bill or in a separate bill. In other words the calculation of the value of electricity pilferaged shall be done based on the tariff applicable for the original connection or the pilferaged purpose, which ever is higher. However no theft case can be instituted for breakage of window glass or seal of energy meter when it is concluded that the consumption pattern for the last 12 months is reasonably uniform unless prima-facie evidence of theft of energy is made out. In other words, all meter seal tampering cases cannot be treated as theft cases unless the following conditions are not satisfied.
1. The consumption pattern for the last 12 months is reasonably uniform.
2. There is no prima facie evidence of theft of energy.
Compounding of offence
The offence of theft of electricity is compoundable and the Deputy Chief Engineer of the concerned circle of the KSEB in the case of HT and E.H.T consumers and the Executive Engineer of the concerned division in the case of other consumers may accept from any consumer or a person who committed or reasonably suspected of having committed an offence of theft energy a sum of money by way of compounding at rate per KW /KVA as follows.
1. Industrial Service - Rs.20,000
2. Commercial Tariff - Rs.10,000
3.AgriculturalService Rs. 2000
4. Other services Rs. 4000
The above are the rates for compounding to be collected per Kilowatt/Horse Power or part thereof for low tension supply and per Kilo volt ampere (KVA) of contracted demand for high tension (HT). On the payment of such sum of money if any person or consumer is in custody in connection with the offence of theft shall be discharged forthwith and no other proceedings shall be instituted or continued against such consumer or person in any criminal court. The acceptance of the said sum of money shall be deemed to or amount to an acquittal within the meaning of Section 300 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973. Section 300 of the Code of Criminal Procedure says that a person once convicted or acquitted not to be tried for same offence. In other words if the offence of theft of energy is once compounded by payment of the required amount, no further proceedings under criminal law can be continued against the said person who has compounded the offence. The important aspect to be noted in the matter of compounding is that the same shall be allowed only in respect of the first offence committed by any person or consumer. In other words any person who is once committed of an offence punishable under the Electricity Act 2003 for theft shall be debarred from getting the benefit of compounding.
Debar from getting supply of energy
Any person who is convicted of an offence punishable under the Electricity Act 2003 for the second time for theft of electrical energy exceeding 10 KW such person shall be debarred from getting supply of electricity for a period which shall not be less than three months but may extend to two years and shall also be debarred from getting supply of electricity for that period from any other source or generating station.
Method of inspection and preparation of Mahazer
When a consumer obstructs the licensee or its authorized officer from inspecting the premises the licensee may disconnect the supply without notice and such obstruction shall be a prima-facie proof of prejudicial use of electricity and shall make the consumer liable to pay penal charge. In cases of prejudicial use of power supply, a mahazer shall be prepared by the licensee in the presence of the consumer or his representatives along with two other witnesses who shall sign the mahazer report, and one copy of such report shall be handed over under acknowledgement of the consumer or his representative.
Punishment for theft.
The punishment for theft of electricity is imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine or with both. If the theft was committed for a load not exceeding 10 KW, the fine imposed on first conviction shall not be less than 3 times the financial gain on account of such theft of electricity and in the case of second or subsequent conviction, the fine shall not be less than 6 times the financial gain on account of theft of electricity. When theft was committed on a load exceeding 10 KW, the fine imposed on first conviction shall not be less than 3 times the financial gain on account of such theft and in the event of second or subsequent conviction, the sentence shall be imprisonment for a term not less than 6 months but which may extend to five years and with fine not less than six times the financial gain on account of such theft of electricity.
According to the Terms and conditions of supply 2005 published by the KSEBoard, the search of any place under Section 126 of the Electricity Act 2003 shall be conducted in the presence of the occupant of place or any person on his behalf and a list of all things seized in the course of such search shall be prepared and delivered to such occupant or person who shall sign the list. No search and seizure of any domestic places or premises shall be carried out between sunset and sunrise except in the presence of any adult male member occupying such premises. According to the KSEB Terms and conditions, when it was prima facie established to the satisfaction of the authorized Engineer of the Board that the consumer or his agent has committed the offence in terms of section 135 of the Act, (Theft), such engineer shall estimate the value of the electricity thus abstracted, used or wasted or diverted, for a period of 6 months or for such other period as may be deemed justified in the circumstance of any given case at one and half times the rate of tariff applicable to such category of installation or at one and half times the normal tariff applicable to the purpose for which the energy is abstracted , used or consumed, which ever is higher and demand the same through an invoice deeming the same as arrears of electricity charges. As per the terms and conditions of supply, the Deputy Chief Engineer in the case of other consumers may compound the offence of theft of electricity by accepting a sum of money. When such sum of money is accepted by the Board deemed to amount to an acquittal within the meaning of section 300 of CRPC 1973.
As per Section 162 of the Electricity Act 2003 the Government may appoint duly qualified persons as Chief Electrical Inspector or Electrical Inspectors for exercising the powers and duties prescribed under the Act and Rules. One of the important duties of the Electrical Inspector is to conduct enquiry and report regarding any accident caused in connection with the generation, transmission, distribution, supply or use of electricity. They are also empowered under the provisions of the Electricity Rules to decide on the safety aspect relating to electricity. Any order or decision taken by the Electrical Inspector Is appealable before the Government. The well known statutory power of the Electrical Inspector to test the faulty meter and to estimate the charges payable during the said period under Section 26(6) of the old act is not seen included in the new Act.
Drawl of Electrical Line
According to Section 164 of the Electricity Act 2003, the Government may issue an order in writing for the placing of electric lines or electrical plant for the transmission of electricity or for the purpose of telephonic or telegraphic communications necessary for co-ordination of work, conferring upon any public officer, licensee or any other person engaged in business of supplying electricity with any of the powers which the telegraph authority possesses under the Telegraph Act, 1885 with respect to the placing of telegraph lines and posts for the purpose of a telegraph established or to be established. So the basic provision enabling the electricity authorities to draw electricity line for giving electricity connection is derived from the above provision. When a dispute arises regarding the drawl of an electric line, the same shall be referred by the Electricity Board authorities for adjudication by the District Magistrate in exercise of the powers under sections 10 and 16 of the Telegraph Act 1885 and the District Magistrate shall pass an order regarding the removal of obstruction. So the limited jurisdiction of the District Magistrate is only to decide upon the question of removal of obstruction caused to the drawl of electric line. If an order of removal of obstruction so issued by the District Magistrate is further resisted by any person, the said person is deemed to have committed an offence under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code. Once the line is drawn through a property and any person desires to deal with that property in such a manner as to render it necessary or convenient that the telegraph line be shifted to another part of the property or to a higher or lower level or altered, he may require the telegraph authority to remove or alter the line accordingly. If such person has already received any compensation for such drawl of electric line through his property, he shall tender to the authority the amount required to meet the expenses for the removal or alteration or 50% of the amount paid as compensation which ever is small. In case of any omission on the part of the authority to comply with said request, the person may apply to the District Magistrate within whose jurisdiction the property is situated. The District Magistrate may consider the same and pass appropriate orders regarding the removal of the line or post to any other part of the property or to a higher or lower level in the property.
Continuation of the Electricity Board
The Electricity Act 2003 envisages the re-constitution of the State Electricity Boards. The rights and liabilities, or interests in property belonging to State Electricity Board shall be vested in the State Government on such terms as may be agreed between the State Government and the Board. Any such property or things vested in the Government shall be revested by the Government in a Government company or companies in accordance with the duly published transfer scheme. According to Section 172 of the Electricity Act, the State Electricity Board constituted under the repealed laws can be deemed to be the State transmission utility and a licensee under the provisions of the Act 2003 for a period of one year from the appointed date. As per SO 669(E) dated 10.6.2003 the appointed date so far as Electricity Act 2003 is concerned is 10.6.2003. According to the proviso to section 172 of the Act 2003 the State Government may by notification authorize the State Electricity Board to continue to function as the State transmission utility or a licensee for such further period beyond the said period for one year as may be mutually decided by the Central Government and State Government. So in Kerala, the Electricity Board was continuing as such from 10.6.2004 onwards on the basis of the above-mentioned proviso by extending the period every six months. On the other hand the authorities are not taking earnest efforts to implement the provision of the Electricity Act 2003 for the re-constitution of the Board. Both the Central government as well as the State Government who were mutually agreeing for such extension for the continuation of the Board are in fact acting against the spirit of the Electricity Act 2003. However the State Government has now taken over the Kerala State Electricity Board and at present the KSEBoard can be called an office of the Government and the new designation of its former Chairman is Special Officer. Therefore now the KSE Board has no independent existence . Tug of war regarding the question as to whether the Board should be made a Company or not is continuing among top leaders ,political parties and employment organizations.
Continuation of Indian Electricity Rules 1956
According to Section 185 of the Electricity Act 2003, the Indian Electricity Act 1910, the Electricity Supply Act 1948 and the Electricity Regulatory Commission Act 1998 are repealed. But Section 185 © says that till the regulations under Section 53 of the Electricity Act 2003 relating to safety and electric supply are concerned, the Indian Electricity Rules 1956 made under Section 37 of the Indian Electricity Act 1910 as it stood before the repeal shall continue to be in force . Therefore the safety aspects of the matter are even now governed by Indian Electricity Rules 1956.
Consumer Redressal Forum and Ombudsman
The licensee is duty bound to establish a forum for redressal of grievances of consumers under Section 42 (5) of the Act 2003 and the State Commission is bound to appoint an Ombudsman under Section 42 (6) of the Act 2003. Accordingly the Kerala State Electricity Regulatory Commission has framed the Kerala State Electricity Regulatory Commission (Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum and Electricity Ombudsman) Regulation 2005 in accordance with Section 181 of the Act 2003. Section 181 confers the powers of State commission to make regulation. According to the said regulations, the licensee may establish a forum for the redressal of grievances of the consumers so as to ensure that any consumer in the area of supply of the licensee may not have to travel more than 200 Kilometers to submit the compliant with the forum. The forum shall consist of not more than three members including Chairperson and they shall be appointed by the licensee from among the employees of the licensee. For licensee other than KSEB single member forum is permitted to be constituted. The KSEB has constituted 3 CGRFS as per B.O.(FB) No. 585/2006 dated 25.2.2006, one for each region namely Southern Central and Northern with chair person in the rank of Deputy Chief Engineer (Electrical) with Head quarters at Kottarakkara for southern region, Ernakulam for central Region and Kozhikode for northern region. According to the Regulations framed by the Commission, the chairperson and members shall be persons of ability, integrity and standing who have adequate knowledge of and have shown capacity in dealing with problems of electrical engineering, finance, law or administration in power sector. As per Regulation 11 of the regulations framed by the commission, the quorum for the proceedings of the CGRF shall be two. So a CGRF with Chairperson alone cannot legally operate the proceedings. Every order made by the forum shall be signed by the Chair person and the members conducting the proceedings. In case of difference of opinion among the members, the decision of the majority shall prevail. In case of equality of votes, the Chair person/ Presiding officer shall have a second or casting vote. The complaint before the CGRF shall be in writing with regard to defect or deficiency in Electricity service provided by the licensee, unfair trade practice of the licensee in providing electricity services, charging of a price in excess of the tariff fixed by the commission, errors in billing erroneous disconnection of supply, electricity services in a manner hazardous to public life and any other grievances relating to supply of electricity except unauthorized use of electricity under Section 126 of the Act 2003, offences and penalties under Section 135 to 139 and accidents in supply of electricity under section 161. Any person who is aggrieved by an order of the CGRF can file appeal to the Ombudsman within 30 days from the date of receipt of order of the forum. The Ombudsman is duty bound to decide the complaints received by him within period of 3 months. So far as CGRF is concerned there is another controversy regarding the officers presiding the Forum. The State Government has appointed Dy Chief Engineers of the KSEBoard as Chairman of the Forum. This is like hearing of a complaint by the paid servant of one of the parties. The basic principle of natural justice that no man shall be a judge in his own cause is violated in these proceedings.
Electricity Regulatory Commission
As per the provisions of Electricity Act, 2003 there can be several licensees for transmission, distribution and trading of electricity. In Kerala the Kerala State Electricity Board is only one among the several licensees under the new act. The new act prescribes the Electricity regulatory Commission as the main controlling authority over the several licensees. The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission and the State Regulatory Commission which were constituted under the repealed Electricity Regulatory Commissions Act 1998 shall be respectively the Central Electricity Regulatory commission and the State Electricity Regulatory Commission. Under the new Act the most important duty of the Regulatory Commissions is to determine the tariff for the supply of electricity by a generating company to distribution licensee, for transmission of electricity, wheeling of electricity and retail sale of electricity. They are also bound to regulate electricity purchase and procurement process of distribution licensees, facilitate intra-state transmission and wheeling of electricity, to issue license to aspiring persons for transmission or distribution of electricity, to promote co-generation and generation of electricity from renewable sources, to adjudicate upon the disputes between licensees and generating companies, to refer any dispute for arbitration, levy fees for the purposes of the new act to specify or enforce standards with respect to the quality, continuity and reliability of the service by licensees, specify the grid code to fix trading margin in the intra state trading of electricity. They have also a duty to advise the state Government in matters relating to promotion of competition, efficiency and economy in activities of the electricity industry, promotion of investment in electricity industry, reorganization and restructuring of the industry and in matters concerning generation, transmission, distribution and trading of electricity or any other matter referred to the state commission by the Government. So very wide powers are given to the Regulatory Commission under the new Act. Under the old Act the State Elelctricity Board could fix the tariff. Now the Board has to approach the Regulatory commission for fixation of tarrif.
Appellate Tribunal for Electricity
Section 110 of the Electricity Act 2003 envisages the constitution of an appellate tribunal for the purpose of hearing appeals against orders made by an adjudicating officer under the Electricity Act, (except under Section 127) or an order made by the appropriate commission. Therefore the orders passed by the Regulatory Commission can be challenged only before the appellate tribunal and the orders passed by the said Tribunal is appelable only before the Supreme Court.
Appellate Authority under Section 127 in matters relating to unauthorized use of Electricity
The appeal provided under Section 127 of the Electricity Act, 2003 against a final order issued under section 126 is to be preferred before the appellate authority within one month from the said order. The Central Government has framed the appeal to the appellate authority rules 2004 which is published as per GSR 265 (E) dated 16.4.2004 prescribing the appellate authority as follows.
“ for the purposes of appeal under Section 127, the State Government may designate by notification published in the official Gazette, a person who is a gazetted officer of the said Government or has been a District Judge or officer of equivalant rank as appellate authority. In accordance with the above provisions the State of Kerala issued SRO.No 250 of 2005 published as per GOP No.5/2005/PD dated 3/3/2005 in Kerala Gazette EST No.531 dated 9.3.2005, designating the Deputy Chief Engineers of the Electrical Circles concerned as the appellate authority for the purpose of appeal under Section 127 of the Act. There is a general apprehension among the consumers regarding the appointment of officers of the licensee namely Kerala State Electricity Board itself as the assessing officers and appellate authorities in cases of detection of unauthorized use of electricity. The view point of the consumers is that there is no meaning in filing objection/appeal before the assessing officer or the appellate authority who are all the paid employees of the licensee who are always interested in protecting the interest of the licensee alone and they cannot fairly consider the objections / appeals. It is an accepted principle of law that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done. The apprehension of the consumers prima facie appears to be reasonable. The assessing officer as well as appellate authorities now appointed under the provisions of Electricity Act are the employees of the licensee. It may be a fact that the above mentioned officers have got a general interest in the subject matter. Mere fact that they are employees of the licensee may not necessarily be held to disqualify officials from acting as an adjudicator unless there is total non application of mind on his part or he has acted as per dictation of the superior authority instead of deciding the matter independently or has prejudged the issue or has taken improper attitude to uphold the policy of the department. Therefore even if the assessing authorities and appellate authorities are employees of the licensee, their decisions can not be said to be invalid unless it is proved that they have shown an improper attitude to uphold the policy of the department or the decision has been taken in total non application of mind on his part or has taken the decision under dictation from higher authorities or he has prejudged the issue. Eventhough there is no bar against the appointment of the employees of the licensee as assessing officers/appellate authorities in respect of detection of unauthorized use of electricity, the authorities have to reconsider the question of appointing Government gazetted officers or retired District Judges also as appellate authorities so as to accomplish fair working of the system .
Implementation of the Standards of performance Regulations 2006
The Kerala State Electricity Regulatory Commission has framed the Licensee’s Standards of performance regulations, 2006 in exercise of the powers under Section 181 (Za and Zb) and also under Section 86 (1) (i) read with section 57 and 59 of the Electricity Act 2003 (Act 36) of 2003. The above regulations insists that the licensee like the KSEB shall maintain minimum standard of service with reference to quality, continuity and reliability of services that a licensee shall achieve in the discharge of his obligations as a licensee. Even though it is stated in sub section 1(4) of the above regulations that the same came into force from 1.11.2006, the Chairman of the Kerala State Electricity Regulatory commission has stated in the 14th meeting of the State Advisory Committee of the commission that the implementation of the above regulations was postponed for a period of 6 months from 30th April 2007 in the case of KSEB because KSEB has not intimated the items which can be implemented in the light of the policy directions issued by the Government of Kerala. This statement is as if the Commission is powerless to call for such details from the KSEB. From the above attitude of the Commission as well as the KSEB it is clear that such responsible authorities are prolonging the implementation of a consumer oriented regulation for reasons best known to them or to protect their interests. In the case of the failure on the part of the licensee to achieve the standards of performance, the consumers are eligible for getting payment of an amount in the manner provided in the schedule of the regulation . For example in the case of a normal fuse off call in cities and towns, the licensee has to rectify the same within 6 hours of recording of complaint and in case of failure to do so the licensee has to pay Rs.25/- to the consumer in case of each default. In rural areas, the same is 24 hours instead of 6 hours. Similarly in line break down cases, the defect has to be cured by the licensee within 12 hours in cities and 24 hrs in rural areas, failing which the licensee will have to pay Rs.25/- to each affected consumer. Similar compensation is provided in case of meter complaints, applications on new connection/ additional load, transfer of ownership, conversion of LT single phase to 3 phase, resolution of complaints on bill disputes reconnection etc.. The conduct of the authorities to prolong the implementation of the above regulations affecting the rights of the consumers is not justifiable under any circumstances.
New Amendments to the Electricity Act 2003.
With effect from 15.6.2007, certain important amendments to the Electricity Act 2003 directly affecting the consumers were implemented by Central Government. As per the amendment to Section 6 of the Act 2003, the concerned State Government and the Central Government shall jointly endeavour to provide access to electricity to all areas including villages and hamlets through rural electricity infrastructure and electrification of households. Earlier, the above provision was in such a way that the appropriate Government shall endeavor to supply electricity to all areas including villages and hamlets, Now as per the amendment, the joint effort of both Central Government and State Governments is prescribed for rural electrification, which is one of the major goals of the Act, 2003. Section 43 of the Act 2003 originally read as follows “Every distribution licensee, shall on an application by the owner or occupier of any premises, give supply of electricity to such premises within one month after receipt of the application requiring supply”. Through the new amendment the words “every distribution licencee” is replaced by the words “Save as otherwise provided in this Act every distribution licencee” and consequently the above duty of the licensee to supply electricity is made subject to other provisions in the act. In other words the time limit of one month for giving connection can be applied strictly, only subject to other conditions in the act if any. The amendment has also incorporated an explanation to the above section with regard to the application for electric connection. As per the amendment, for the purpose of this section application means the application complete in all respects in the appropriate form, as required by the distribution licensee along with documents showing payment of necessary charges and other compliances. Therefore only applications which are not defective alone will be counted as application for the purpose of the above section. By amending section 50 of the Act 2003, the power of the Electricity Regulatory Commission to in corporate the measures for preventing tampering in the Electricity supply code is also included.
The most important amendments are incorporated in Sections 126,127 and 135 of the Electricity Act 2003. The main purpose behind incorporating such amendments is to curb the misuse of electricity. The amendment to sub section 3 of Section 126 reads as follows “ the person on whom an order has been served under sub section (2) shall be entitled to file objections if any against provisional assessment before the assessing officer, who shall after affording a reasonable opportunity of hearing to such person, pass a final order of assessment within 30 days from the date of service of such order of provisional assessment of the electricity charges payable by such person. In the original unamended provision there was no time limit for passing final order of assessment against the provisional assessment made by the assessing officer upon detection of unauthorized use of electricity. In other words, earlier the objection to preliminary assessment could be submitted at any time but after the amendment on 15.6.2007, the objection shall be submitted, hearing shall be conducted and final order of assessment shall be passed by the assessing officer within 30 days from the date of service of the order of provisional assessment. According to Section 126(4) of the Electricity Act 2003 there were two options for a person who has been served with a provisional assessment pursuant to detection of unauthorized use of electricity. The first option was to object to the provisional assessment by submitting the written objection before the assessing authority and the assessing authority shall pass orders on such objection in the form of final order of assessment. The second option available to the consumers was to accept the provisional assessment and deposit the assessed amount with the licensee within seven days of service of such provisional assessment order upon him. The proviso to section 126(4) clearly stated that in the case of the person who deposits the assessed amount, he shall not be subjected to any further liability or any action by any authority whatsoever. In other words once the consumer adopts the second option and pays the entire provisional assessment demand no further action including criminal prosecution could be taken against him . Now from 15.6.2007 onwards, as per the new amendment, the proviso to Section 126(4) is omitted. Consequently after 15.6.2007, if an unauthorized use of electricity is detected, even if the entire provisional assessment is accepted and paid by the consumer, he can be subjected to other proceedings.
Another major amendment is incorporated in respect of the assessment of the loss sustained by the licensee on account of the unauthorized use of electricity by the consumer. The amended sub section (5) of Section 126 is as follows” if the assessing officer reaches to the conclusion that unauthorized use of electricity has taken place, the assessment shall be made for the entire period during which such unauthorized use of electricity has taken place and if however the period during which such unauthorized use of electricity has taken place cannot be ascertained, such period shall be limited to a period of 12 months immediately preceding the date of inspection”. Originally the back assessment for unauthorized use of electricity could be made by the licensee only for a period of 3 months immediately preceding the date of inspection in the case of domestic and agricultural services and for a period of 6 months immediately preceding the date of inspection for all other categories of services, unless the onus is rebutted by the person, occupier or possessor of such premises. Now this limitation of 3 months or 6 months applicable to respective consumers is taken away by the amendment and the same is made applicable to the entire period which can be ascertained by the licensee as the period during which unauthorized use of electricity has taken place and if such a period cannot be ascertained, the assessment can be made for a period of 12 months preceding the date of inspection. The above amendment gives option to the licencee to arbitrarily calculate the period of misuse and there is every chance of misuse of the above power. Yet another amendment is with regard to the multiplier applicable to the units of electricity misused by the consumer. In the original act the said multiplier was one and a half times. But in the amendment from 15.6.2007 the multiplier has increased from one and a half times to two times. Amendment is also incorporated to the meaning of unauthorized use of electricity. The usage of electricity for the premises or area other than those for which the supply of electricity was authorized is also included as unauthorized use of electricity. For example, if an electric connection is given by the licensee for the use within the premises of a house ,the same cannot be extended outside the house and once such extension is detected, the same will be charged under unauthorized use of electricity. The minimum payment required for filing an appeal under section 127 of the Act 2003 is also amended and increased from 1/3rd of the assessed amount to half of the assessed amount as per the amendment from 15.6.2007 onwards.
The steps against theft of electricity are very seriously dealt with in the amendment to section 135 of the Act, 2003 which came in force on 15.6.2007. The use of electricity through a tampered meter or the use of electricity for the purpose other than for which the usage of electricity was authorized are also included in the definition of theft. In a case where a consumer was convicted for the second time and above for attempted abstraction, consumption or use of 10 KW and more amount of electrical energy, such person shall be debarred from getting any supply of electricity for a period which shall not be less than 3 months but may extend to two years and shall also be debarred from getting supply of electricity for that period from any other source or generating station. In the new amendment, the licensee is also authorized to immediately disconnect the supply of electricity upon detection of theft. A new provision is also incorporated enabling the licensee or the supplier to lodge a complaint in writing relating to the commission of the offence of theft in the police station having jurisdiction in the area within 24 hours from the time of such disconnection. The court is also authorized as per the amendment to take cognizance of an offence punishable under the act on the basis of a report of police officer filed under section 173 of the Code of criminal procedure. Earlier the court could take cognizance only on the basis of a complaint in writing made by appropriate Government or appropriate Commission or any of the officer authorized by them or a Chief Electrical Inspector or an Electrical Inspector or Licensee or the generating company as the case may be. But now the court can proceed on the basis of the police report also.
Once a theft is detected the supply can be immediately disconnected by the competent officer and if the consumer deposits the entire amount assessed the supply shall be restored within 48 hours of such deposits/payment without prejudice to the obligation to lode the complaint before the police.
As per the amendment to section 151 of the Act 2003 the Police officer shall have all the powers provided under the Code of CrPC for the purpose of investigation of an offence punishable under the act. Moreover an offence punishable under sections 135 to 140 or section 150 are all made cognizable and nonbailable. So when theft of electricity electric lines and materials, receipt of such stolen materials, interference with meters or works of licensee or negligent or malicious wasting of electricity or injuring works and abetting any offence punishable under this act is detected the police officer can arrest the offender without warrant. Therefore as per the abovementioned new amendments the legislature has prescribed all strict actions to reduce the misuse of energy .
Transfer of ownership
When there is a transfer ownership or right of occupancy of the premises where an electric connection is given the registered consumer shall intimate the transfer of right occupancy of the premises to the Assistant Engineer or Assistant Executive Engineer within 7 days from the date of transfer on receipt of such transfer, the service shall be disconnected after giving notice to the occupants. If the transferee desires to enjoy the connection, he shall pay the dues to the Board and apply for transfer of ownership of service connection with 15 days and execute fresh agreement and furnish additional security. There will be a first charge for the licensee/Board on the assets of the consumer and all the dues including interest shall be realized as public revenue due on land.
Date of commencement of supply
The electricity Board gives power connection to consumer strictly in the order of priority on the basis of a service connection agreement. In the event of a consumer enjoying service connection without a formal contract entered between the Board and the consumer, it is deemed that the Terms and Conditions of Supply 2005 is applicable to such consumer from the time when the supply of electricity has been commenced. On making a requisition by the Board the consumer is bound to enter into an agreement with the Board failing which the supply shall be dismantled by the Board without notice and dues if any shall be recovered by Revenue Recovery Proceedings. In any case where the date of commencement of supply cannot be established, the consumer shall be liable to pay the current charges and interest for a period of 6 months immediately preceding such illegal consumption of energy.
Arrears of previous consumer
The arrears of charges due from a previous consumer in a situation where the purchaser of the said premise requires new connection shall be recovered from the previous owner /occupier of the premises and not from the purchaser.