(Arising out of S.L.P. (C) No.25840 of 2004)
Dr. Arijit Pasaya, J. - Leave granted
Challenge in this appeal is to the
order passed by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New
Delhi (in short the National Commission ).
3. The appellants had questioned
correctness of the findings recorded by the District Consumer Forum,
Ranchi (in short District Forum ) and the State Consumer Disputes
Redressal Commission, Jharkhand, Ranchi (in short the State Commission )
before the National Commission.
4. The basic grievance of the
respondent was that the electricity supply was discontinued without
notice. Compensation of Rs.50,000/- was awarded along with 12% interest
per annum by the District Forum and upheld by the State Commission. The
National Commission took the view that since notice was given after
disconnection, the action was clearly unsustainable.
5. In support of the appeal, leaned
counsel for the appellant submitted that the District Forum, the State
Commission and the National Commission failed to appreciate that the
notice of disconnection was given on 20.12.1999 and the disconnection
was made on 29.1.2000. Additionally, it was submitted that whether the
consumer of electricity can be covered under the provisions of the
Consumers Protection Act, 1986 (in short the Act ) has not been
considered by the National Commission.
6. Stand of the appellants is that
the definition of Consumer as defined in Section 2(o) of the Act does
not cover a consumer of electricity.
7. Learned counsel for the
respondent, on the other hand, submitted that the District Forum, the
State Commission and the National Commission have categorically found
that no notice was given prior to disconnection and the respondent has
taken a categorical stand that the notice dated 20.12.1999 has not been
served on him.
8. In this case we are concerned
with the scope and extent of the beneficial consumer jurisdiction,
particularly with regard to technical subjects falling under provisions
such as the Electricity Act, 2003. Under Section 2(c) of the Act
complaint is defined to mean allegation in writing made by a complainant
that the service provider has charged for the services, a price in
excess of the price fixed under the law for the time being in force
[See: Section 2(c) (iv)]. Under Section 2(d) consumer is defined to mean
any person who hires or avails of any services for a consideration which
has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised. Under
Section 2(g) of the Act the word deficiency is defined to mean any
fault, imperfection, shortcoming or inadequacy in the quality, nature
and manner of performance which is required to be maintained by or under
any law for the time being in force or under a contract or otherwise in
relation to any service.
The word goods is defined under
Section 2(i) to mean goods as defined in the Sale of Goods Act, 1930.
Service also defined under Section 2(o) of the Act to mean service of
any description which is made available to users in connection with
banking, financing, insurance, transport, processing, supply of
electrical energy, entertainment etc. Therefore, supply of electric
energy by the Nigam falls under Section 2(o) of the Act. However, the
question which arises for determination and which has not been decided
is : whether the beneficial consumer jurisdiction extends to
determination of tortuous acts and liability arising there from by the
Consumer Forum. In this connection, it is urged on behalf of the Nigam
that assessment of the duty for unauthorized use of electricity,
tampering of meters, distribution of meters and calibration of electric
current are matters of technical nature which cannot be decided by the
Consumer Forum. It is urged that under the Electricity Act, 2003 the
jurisdiction of the civil court is excluded. In this connection reliance
was placed on Section 145 of the said 2003 Act under which the
jurisdiction of the civil court to entertain suits in respect of matters
falling under Section 126 is expressly barred. These are mattes of
assessment. It is stated that the 2003 Act is a complete Code by itself
and, therefore, in matters of assessment of electricity bills the
Consumer Forum should have directed the respondent to move before the
competent authority under the Electricity Act, 2003 read with rules
framed thereunder either expressly or by incorporation.
9. The above position was noted in
Haryana State Electricity Board v. Mam Chand (2006 (4) SCC 649).
10. In view of the fact that the
National Commission has not addressed the question as to whether
consumer of electricity is covered by the definition of Consumer as
defined in Section 2(o) of the Act, we set aside the impugned order and
remit the matter to the National Commission to record a positive finding
on the aspect. It shall also take into consideration the dispute raised
regarding the alleged service of notice dated 20.12.1999.
11. The appeal is allowed to the
aforesaid extent with no order as to costs.
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