Falgu Mukati | Pravin Gandhi College of Law | 10th February 2020
State of Maharashtra vs Girish Shankarlal Ostawal and Dilip Shankarlal Ostawal, Criminal Appeal NO.1139 OF 2003
In this case the two accused of the offence punishable under Section 39 (Theft of energy) and Section 44 (Penalty for interference with meters or licensees work and for improper use of energy) of the Indian Electric Act, 1910. The Special Drive of Vigilance and Security Directorate of MSEB Head office, Mumbai, conducted a check on electrical instalment at Malegaon. Deputy Executive Engineer along with a flying squad came to a plastic pipe factory to detect theft of energy. It inspected the meter of the plastic pipe factory. The sanction load was 40 H.P. The complainant doubted sticker paper seal on the meter and therefore asked the local office to send him a sample sticker seal. After comparing both the seals the complainant found that all the four seals were fictitious. The connected load was 56.38 H.P, more than the sanctioned load of 40 H.P. The meter was intermittently working. The bill was very less as compared to the connected load. The consumer had interfered with the meter reading by tampering the meter. It had thus committed a theft of energy by tampering with the electric meter of 257766 units worth Rs 13,59,591. Thus, a complaint was filed against the accused.
- The evidence put forth by the witness, PW-5, Vishwasrao Pawar (Junior Engineer) is relevant where the deposition is to the effect that the accused, ‘might have’ tampered with the seals and/or the meter.
- It is alleged that there is no material on record to show the existence of any artificial means or means that were not authorized by the licensee.
- The appellant must prove that there was dishonest abstraction and/or consumption and/or use of electricity.
- It alleged that for an offence to be committed under Section 39, the onus of proving the offence is on the appellant. It stated that the mere tampering of the seals by itself is not enough to prove the offence.
- The manner in which the prosecution established actual abstraction of energy was unlawful, when it could have been proved in a civil manner.
- Section 44 stipulates that, ‘Penalty for interference with matters or licensee’s works and for improper use of energy.’ In this case there is no such evidence, under which a case can be filed against the respondent.
- The prosecution has failed to provide substantial evidence, and prove that the accused has tampered with the meter.
- It stated that PW-1, PW-2, PW-3, and PW-4, were not present at the time when the panchnama was made.
- There is a substantial difference in the statements made by PW-5, PW-6 and PW-7. PW-5 stated that, ‘the meter disc was rotating slowly’. PW-6 stated that, ‘the meter was not in working condition’. PW-7 stated that, ‘the meter was intermittently working. As such there is a lack of uniformity in the statements made by them.
- PW-5 stated that, ‘the terminal cover of the meter was not found’. PW-6 stated that, ‘the sticker cover on the terminal cover was fake, implying that the terminal cover existed. As such there was a lack of clarity in the statements made by them.
- The Electrical Meter was not shown to the Electric Inspector and there was no subsequent meter used to find out the technical fault of the said meter.
- The main issue raised in this case was that was mere tampering of the meter sufficient form of evidence to hold the accused responsible under Section 39 and Section 44.
- In my view the opinion of the Trial Court cannot be held illegal or improper or contrary to law. The order of acquittal, in my view, cannot be interfered with. I cannot find any fault with the judgement of the Trial Court.