BENGALURU: A circular issued on August 8 by the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Bangalore Electricity Supply Company’s vigilance cell has alarmed energy experts and industrialists. The matter was discussed at BESCOM on Thursday.
The circular issued to all assistant executive engineers (AEE), inspectors and sub-inspectors stated that they should not register complaints of misuse of power as non-cognisable. Until now, complaints were registered as either non-cognisable, which refers to ‘unauthorised use of power’ (Section 126 of The Electricity Act, 2003), or cognisable, which refers to theft of electricity (Section 135). Until further orders, all should be registered under Section 135 only under the Indian Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure, the circular stated.
While unauthorised use of power is a civil complaint that has a penalty, power theft is a more serious offence which becomes a criminal case and can lead to arrest. The circular removes the difference between both, which some say will have disastrous consequences.
M G Prabhakar, advisor, Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commissioner, said, “If a factory takes power connection under the industrial tariff but later opens another commercial unit in the premises to sell something, it becomes a case of unauthorised use of power, as the tariff for commercial activity is higher than industrial. If a residential property, which pays domestic tariff, opens a small retail saree shop without paying commercial tariff, is another example. These are smaller offences under Section 126 and the result in a fine.”
However, Section 135 includes offences such as meter tampering, using hooks to draw energy, laying underground or overhead cables and connecting them to the main line by bypassing the meter, with an intent to defraud the supply company.
Will lead to harassment, say industrialists
“This order will lead to harassment. It is unjustified and too stringent a punishment for a civil offence. Moreover, the AEE does not have the authority to step into the shoes of a vigilance officer attached to a police station or an inspector when assessing the situation,” Prabhakar said.
Former FKCCI president Jacob Crasta said, “I work from home, which has a domestic power connection, but what I am doing is essentially a commercial activity. This kind of situation can be misused by officials to book criminal cases.”
BESCOM MD Rajesh Gowda said, “We have asked KERC to clarify the provisions in the act. The circular is in force now, but we are yet to make a decision, which will take 10 days.”