IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 9148 OF 2015
(Arising from S.L.P. (C) No. 23721/2012)
U. P. Power Corporation Limited
and others … Appellant (s)
Vimla Devi and another … Respondent (s)
J U D G M E N T
The short dispute in this case pertains to the steps taken by the appellant-
Corporation for levying the energy charges on the first respondent for the
period of the alleged meter fault. On the basis of the inspection conducted
on 25th/28th November, 2009 by the Junior Engineer of the appellant-
Corporation, the first respondent was served with a notice dated 23.03.2010
demanding an amount of Rs.1,97,815/- towards energy charges which escaped
billing. The first respondent filed a writ petition before the High Court
which was disposed of by judgment dated 18.05.2010 permitting her to file
objections and directing the Executive Engineer to consider the objections
and pass a speaking order. The Executive Engineer, by order dated
08.06.2010, passed the revised order limiting the demand to Rs.50,891/-.
The said order was challenged before the High Court in C.W.P. No. 19347 of
2012 leading to the impugned judgment.
The High Court, having conducted an elaborate inquiry into the matter,
found that there was no justification for the demand. It was held that the
proper procedure prescribed under law was not followed in inspection and
preparation of the report. Still further, it was held that even the
appellate authority did not discharge its functions as expected of them.
The displeasure on the conduct of the assessing officer and the appellate
authority was directed to be recorded in their annual character roll
(annual confidential report) for the relevant period. The writ petition was
thus allowed with costs of Rs.10,000/- to be paid by the appellant-
Corporation with liberty to recover the same from the officials concerned
after conducting an appropriate inquiry. There was also a direction to
communicate the order to the Chief Secretary for ensuring compliance of the
directions by the High Court. And thus aggrieved, the Corporation and its
officials have come up in appeal.
Heard learned Counsel appearing for the appellants and the respondents.
Though several contentions are raised by the Counsel on both sides, the
dispute essentially is in a very narrow compass. According to the
appellants, for whatever reason, there was short assessment of energy
charged at the premises of the first respondent during the period between
05.11.2008, when the old meter was replaced and 31.01.2010. It is not in
dispute that a new meter was installed at the premises of the first
respondent on 23.01.2010. It is fairly conceded that when the meter at the
premises of a consumer is reported to be non-functional, and if
consequently, there is short assessment for a long period, the bills can be
revised for that period but limiting to twelve months. What should be the
basis of the assessment, is the simple question.
There is no case for the appellants that the meter installed on 23.01.2010
had any fault thereafter, in any case, for quite some time. Therefore,
having regard to the entire facts and circumstances of the case, we are of
the view that interest of justice will be served if the energy bills of the
first respondent are revised for a period of twelve months ending with
31.01.2010, taking the average of twelve months from 01.02.2010. In other
words, based on the average consumption for a period of twelve months
beginning from 01.02.2010, the energy bills of the first respondent for a
period of twelve months ending with 31.01.2010 shall be revised. A fresh
demand on that basis shall be issued to the first respondent within two
months from today. After adjusting the amounts already paid for the said
period, the first respondent shall pay the balance amount within another
one month failing which it will be open to the appellants to take
appropriate coercive action permitted under law. It is made clear that this
order has thus given a quietus to the entire dispute raised in the writ
petition regarding the short assessment.
Having said that we have also to address the grievances raised by the
appellants with regard to the adverse observations against the conduct of
the officers and a direction by the High Court to record displeasure in the
annual confidential report of the assessing officer and the appellate
authority. Going through the materials available on record as produced by
both sides, we find that there is no justification for any such direction
by the High Court. Apparently, the authorities have only discharged their
functions under law. It appears that there has been some procedural
irregularity. But that does not mean that there is any malafide or illegal
conduct on the part of the officers. It may be noted that even according to
the High Court, an inquiry is to be conducted for fastening the liability.
If that be so, there is no justification for the remarks against the
assessing officer and the appellate authority. It is seen from the records
that there is marked difference in the pattern of consumption after the new
meter was installed in January, 2010. In such circumstances, it is
difficult to digest any allegation of motivated conduct on the part of the
Accordingly, the appeal is allowed with directions as above on
reassessment. The adverse remarks on the conduct of the officers are
expunged and the directions contained in paragraphs-48, 49 and 51 of the
impugned judgment are vacated. The order on costs is also vacated.
There shall be no order as to costs.
(T. S. THAKUR)
October 30, 2015.