SC bars consumer courts from deciding power disputes

Written by Indu Bhan | Indu Bhan | Updated: Jul 17 2013, 09:50am hrs
Consumer courts cant entertain disputes over power bills

Quashing the National Consumers Disputes Redressal Commissions order in a bunch of appeals led by UP Power Corporation Ltd & Ors vs Anis Ahmad, the Supreme Court has held that consumer courts cannot entertain complaints against power bills assessed under the Electricity Act, 2003, unless they prove unfair trade practice or restrictive trade practice or deficiency in service. Acts of indulgence in unauthorised use of electricity by a person neither has any relationship with unfair trade practice or restrictive trade practice or deficiency in service nor does it amounts to hazardous services by the licensee, it said.

Such acts have nothing to do with charging excess price, therefore, the complaint against assessment under Section 126 of the Electricity Act is not maintainable before the consumer forum, the apex court said, adding that in case of inconsistency between the Electricity Act and the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, the provisions of latter will prevail, but ipso facto it will not vest the consumer forum with the power to redress any dispute with regard to the matters not falling within the meaning of service or complaint as defined by the 1986 Act.

According to the top court, the consumer as defined under the 1986 Act includes a person who is supplied with electricity for his own use and not for the commercial purpose.

Death of lessee can end mining lease Legal heirs are not entitled to continue or renew the mining lease as after the death of the original lessee all his rights come to an end, the Supreme Court held in the case of MP State Mining Corporation Ltd vs Sanjeev Bhaskar & Ors.

In this case, the MP government in 1966 had granted a 20-year mining lease over 28 acres in a village to Rajendra Nath Bhaskar for extraction of pyrophyllite and diaspore minerals under the Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act, 1957, read with Mineral Concession Rules, 1960. The lessee had moved the Madhya Pradesh High Court after the collector cancelled his lease for certain breaches of terms.

Six years before the lease was to end in 1986, Rajendra died and his heirs applied for continuation of the lease after a long delay.

The state government granted the lease for five hectares out of the mining area in question to the MP State Mining Corp. The heir challenged it in the Delhi HC, which in 2011 held that the heir was entitled to the unexpired period of six years, six months and 29 days of the original lease. This was challenged by the Corporation and the state government in the apex court.

Noting that in absence of any valid explanation from the heir in applying for fresh grant of lease after the delay of more than 14 years after the death of the original lessee, the Supreme Court said all rights come to an end and the heir(s) were neither entitled to continue with the lease nor entitled for renewal of lease.

Pre-deposit in arbitration awards

The Supreme Court has disagreed with Andhra Pradesh High Courts proposition that 75% of the awarded amount was required to be deposited by the party before the application under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 could be heard. The HC held that under Section 34 of the Act, the party which had to pay had to deposit 75% of the amount awarded or the appeal will be dismissed for non-compliance of Section 7 of the Interest on Delayed Payments to Small-Scale and Ancillary Industrial Undertakings Act, 1993.

In this case, Sri Paravathi Parmeshwar Cables and others vs AP Transmission Corporation Ltd, the former had challenged the judgment of the HC which dismissed its revision petitions filed against the order of the trial court. The apex court cited its 2010 decision in Snehadeep Structures Private Ltd vs Maharashtra Small-Scale Industries Development Corporation Ltd where it held that the term award appearing in Section 7 of the Interest Act 1993, would include an application under Section 34 of the Arbitration Act.