Chandigarh consumer forum asks Sanjay Popli to pay Rs 1.23L as pending electricity bill dues

The Chandigarh Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has allowed the appeal of the UT electricity division that had claimed that arrested IAS officer Sanjay Popli owed the department Rs 1.23 lakh in lieu of a 15-year-old unpaid electricity bill.

The Punjab Vigilance Bureau in June had arrested IAS officer Sanjay Popli and one of his aides for allegedly demanding a bribe of 1 per cent for clearing a tender for laying sewerage pipes in Nawanshahr.

Popli, through his counsel, had contended before the commission that he was allotted house number 520 at Sector 11, Chandigarh, in 2004 with an electricity connection.

Before the allotment of the Sector 11 house, he was allotted house number 735 at Sector 7-C, which he vacated in December 2003 due to his transfer to Ferozepur. Popli had said in his complaint that to his shock, he received a bill for the cycle from May 28, 2019 of Rs 1,18,306 (including Rs 1,06,432 as sundry charges) for the period from February 25 to April 25, 2019, in which the old reading was shown as 42,174 and new reading as 44,354 and as such consumption was of 2,180 units.

Upon enquiry, he was informed that the defaulting amount of Rs 48,681 were pending since 2004 and annual surcharge was being added without any intimation to him.

The district commission allowed the complaint of Popli and quashed a demand raised by the electricity division of Chandigarh against the IAS officer demanding Rs 1.23 lakh as electricity bill.

The executive engineer of the Electricity Division of Chandigarh had filed an appeal against the order with the state commission.

The state commission, after hearing the matter, said, “The ledger entries placed on record by the appellants (electricity division) established that the amount of arrear outstanding against the respondent (Sanjay Popli) has been shown continuously. To our mind, the dictrict commission has thus grossly erred while holding that in the light of Section 56(2) of the Electricity Act, 2003, the demand raised by the appellants is illegal especially when the amount sought to be recovered from the complainant/respondent was continuously shown as recoverable arrears in the bills issued to him.”

As per order, the counsel for Popli relied upon the first part of Clause 7.40 of Supply Code Regulation Clause, which provided that no sum due from any consumer, on account of default in payment, shall be recoverable after the period of two years from the date when such sum became first due unless such sum has been shown continuously as recoverable as arrears of charges of electricity supplied.

The state commission said, “…In the instant case, it is established that there are pending dues against the respondent and the same were pending for more than six months and the same were transferred to another installation of the same consumer… the appellants have right to recover the pending dues from the respondent and the provisions of Clause 7.40 of the regulations have rightly been resorted to by transferring the amount to another electricity meter installed in the name of the respondent/complainant against house number 520, Sector 11, Chandigarh…”

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