SC: Strict proof not needed for assessing liability u/s 126(1), Electricity Act

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, in the matter of West Bengal State ElectricityDistribution Company Ltd. & Ors.v. M/s. Orion Metal Pvt. Ltd. & Anr. pronounced that proving the case beyond reasonable doubt and establishing the element of mens rea is not necessary for assessing the liability of a person indulging in unauthorized use of electricity.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that:

The power conferred on authorities for making assessment under Section 126(1) of the Act and power to determine civil liability under Section 154(5) of the Electricity Act, 2003, cannot be said to be parallel to each other. (Para 14)

In such cases for loss of energy, on account of unauthorized use of energy not amounting to theft, it is always open for the authorities to assess the loss of energy by resorting to power under Section 126(1) of the Electricity Act, 2003. In cases where allegation is of unauthorized use of energy amounting to theft, in such cases, apart from assessing the proceedings under Section 126(1) of the Electricity Act, a complaint also can be lodged alleging theft of energy as defined under Section 135(1) of the Electricity Act. In such cases, the Special Court is empowered to determine civil liability under Section 154(5) of the Electricity Act. On such determination of civil liability by the Special Court, the excess amount, if any, deposited by the petitioner, is to be refunded to the consumer.(Para 14)

Strict proof is not necessary for assessing the liability under Section 126(1) of the Electricity Act, 2003. (Para 14)

Copy of judgement: Judgement_21-Aug-2019

-Adv. Tushar Kaushik

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