Electricity is the source of using many important devices without which we cannot imagine our life in today’s time. For using cell phones, laptops, tablets, fans, ACs, kitchen appliances, we need electricity. But in many areas people face various problems due to continuous power shutdown. Continuous power cuts may be due to short circuits, damage in electricity transmitters or other devices, faults at power stations, etc. Day to day activities become difficult and irritating in case of power cuts. Many times, electricity providers do not pay heed to the applications written by people who face continuous power shutdown.
So what can you do in case of continuous power shutdown? What are the remedies available?
Obligation to provide electricity
The Indian Electricity Act, 1910, lays down certain provisions regarding the control and regulation of the supply of electricity in India. Section 22 of The Indian electricity Act, makes it obligatory for the license holders to provide electricity. It says that wherever the license holder provides electricity supply, it should be provided to every person in that area in accordance with the terms and conditions.
However, government can control the distribution and consumption of electricity. As per Section 22B, in order to maintain equitable distribution of electricity, government can regulate the supply, distribution, consumption and use of electricity. Also the provider of electricity can take permission from the government not to comply the following:
- with the provisions of any contract or agreement of supplying power to any person;
- with any requisition for the resumption of supply of energy to a consumer after a period of six months, from the date of its discontinuance;
- with any requisition for the resumption of supply of energy to a consumer after a period of six months, from the date of its discontinuance, where the requisitioning consumer was not himself the consumer of the supply at the time of its discontinuance.[i]
Charges for the provision of electricity
Section 23 of the Indian Electricity Act, 1910, says that charges for electricity should be made without undue influence. Following are the important provisions of this section:
- Electricity provider shall not do any preference in favour of any person for the supply of electricity.
- Without the permission of electricity supplier, consumers should not use any other method of electricity supply
- Charges can be made in the following manner-
- By the actual amount of energy supply;
- By the electrical quantity contained in the supply;
- By any other method approved by the Government.
- Charges may vary according to following factors-
- Consumer’s load factor; power factor of the load;
- Total consumption of energy during any stated period;
- Hours at which energy supply is needed.
Electricity providers can discontinue to provide the energy in case the charges are not paid.
Discontinuance of supply of electricity
Section 24 of the Act talks about discontinuance of electricity in case the consumer does not pay charges. Following are the important points in this situation:
- Power can be cut in case the consumer neglects to pay charges of electricity or any sum due;
- Notice of not less than 7 days for the payment is mandatory;
- The electricity provider can continue to disconnect electricity till the payment (charges or any other sum), together with the expenses incurred by him in cutting the supply of electricity, is made.
- In a case of any dispute, when Electrical Inspector is to give his/her decision, the electricity provider cannot disconnect the electricity supply under this section.
Punishment in case of defective supply of electricity
Section 42 states the punishment for the defective supply of electricity.
If any person who has obtained the sanction of the State Government, makes default in supply of electricity without any reasonable excuse then he/she would be made liable under this section. the burden of proving the reasonable excuse will lie on the person who has made default in supply. If any person fails to comply with the directions or requisitions under Sections 5, 6, 22A, 22B or 34(2), then he/she shall also be liable under this section.
The punishment is fine (extending upto Rs. 1,000) and in case of continuous default, daily fine (extending upto Rs. 100).
Redressal of consumer complaints
Section 2(15) of The Electricity Act, 2003, gives the definition of ‘consumer’. It states, “consumer means any person who is supplied with electricity for his own use by a licensee or the Government or by any other person engaged in the business of supplying electricity to the public under this Act or any other law for the time being in force and includes any person whose premises are for the time being connected for the purpose of receiving electricity with the works of a licensee, the Government or such other person, as the case may be.”
Section 24(1) of The Electricity Act, 2003 says that if any electricity provider or license holder fails to maintain uninterrupted supply of electricity or is unable to carry out the functions and duties imposed on them, then the Appropriate Commission (State Electricity Regulatory Commission) can suspend their license for not more than 1 year.
Further Section 42(5) provides for the establishment of a forum for redressal of grievances of the consumer. Forum is to be established in accordance with the guidelines of State Commission and within 6 months from grant of license or the appointed date. An authority called Ombudsman is appointed as per Section 42(6) who is appointed or designated by State Commission. Any consumer aggrieved by the non- redressal of grievances by the electricity supplier can present his/her grievance before Ombudsman. According to Section 42(7), Ombudsman settles the grievance of the consumer within such time and manner as specified by the State Commission. If the complainant is not satisfied with the redressal provided by Ombudsman then he/she can file complaint under any forum established under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
Therefore, the consumer redressal mechanism is as follows:
- Firstly, consumer will approach Consumer Grievances Redressal Forums.
- If the consumer is not satisfied with the redressal of Forum then he/she can approach Ombudsman as specified under Section 42(7).
- Not satisfied with the redressal of Ombudsman, the consumer can approach forum set up under The Consumer Protection Act, 2019. The three tier system of COPRA, 2019, is as follows:
- District Commission for disputes upto Rs. 1 crore (Section 34 of the Act)
- State Commission for disputes of Rs.1 crore to 10 crores (Section 47 of the Act)
- National Commission for disputes of more than 10 crores (Section 58 of the Act)
It is advised to follow this mechanism for the redressal of complaints. The consumers can aslo directly approach Consumer forums under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
Continuous power cuts can cause interruptions in our lives. So, people should raise their voice against this problem and the provisions laid under The Indian Electricity Act, 1910 should be looked at. As every electricity provider has a duty to supply electricity in their areas and according to Section 22 of The Indian Electricity Act, 1910, they cannot disconnect or make defaults in supplying electricity without reasonable excuse, so they can be made liable in case they do not fulfill their obligations. Redressal mechanism is to be followed to file the complaints in these cases.
Edited by Pragash Boopal
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
[i] The Indian Electricity Act, 1910, s. 22B(2)