By: Chandrani Mitra
It was held by the Kerala High Court on the 16th of March that the Electricity Board was obliged to provide electricity connection within a month of receipt of the application and that electricity and water are part of the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution. Justice Murali Purushothaman’s single bench said in the judgement that “Electricity is a basic amenity in life. Water and electricity are integral part of right to life within the meaning of Article 21 of the Constitution.”
The Court refused to grant relief to the two Kerala State Electricity Board employees, namely who were found to have delayed on arranging an electricity connection to a person who had applied for the same.
Facts of the case:
One Sri. P. Sainuddeen had applied for electric connection to his newly built house of 300 square feet extent before the Assistant Engineer, Electric Section, Edarikkode, who informed him that since the house has been constructed without keeping the minimum distance from the Low Tension electric line (L.T. line), the electric connection can be given only after shifting the electric line.
In this regard, the Court referred to Section 43 of the Electricity Act, 2003, which deals with the duty to supply on request. Sub-section (1) of the Act states that [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.
Aggrieved by the information passed on by the Assistant Engineer, Sainudeen had approached the KSEB Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum (CGRF), who instructed the petitioner to shift the said electric line within 21 days after collecting an estimated deposit amount from the respondent.
The petitioners had submitted to the State Electricity Regulatory commission that the consent of the members owning the property adjacent to such electric line had to be obtained in order to proceed with such shifting as had been ordered by the CGRF, and later on, appealed to the Regulatory Commission to seek a reconsideration of the original order since the consent from such owners of the property could not be obtained.
On further consideration the Regulatory Commission found that the deviation from the CGRF order by the petitioners was willful, and found the explanation of inability to obtain consent to be unsatisfactory, thus imposed a penalty of Rs. 50,000 on the 1st petitioner and Rs.25,000/- on the 2nd petitioner under the provisions of Section 142 of the Electricity Act, 2003. The instant case was heard by the Kerala High Court on account of a petition submitted by both the officers of Kerala State Electricity Board, on whom such fine was imposed.
The Court agreed with the fines imposed on the petitioners and observed that “this Court agree with the finding of the Regulatory Commission in Ext. P18 order that the writ petitioners willfully did not inform CGRF that for shifting the line a stay wire has to be planted in the premises of the 4th respondent and they went back on the proposal submitted by them before CGRF. Ext.P4 order of CGRF has been flouted by the writ petitioners.”
The Court dismissed the petition after being presented with the information that arrangements for electricity to Sainuddeen’s house had been made. With regard to the circumstances under which such case had been filed, the Court commented, “To light up a tiny bulb in his tiny house Sainuddeen had to walk from pole to pole. An order of the Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum (CGRF) in his favour could not dispel the darkness at his home and the State Electricity Regulatory Commission mulcted two officers of the Board for delay in giving electricity connection and thus these two officers are before this Court.”