Failure of the Mangalore Electricity Supply Company (Mescom) to substantiate its charge of misuse of power by an irrigation pumpset owner has created an embarrassing situation for the company.

The Dakshina Kannada District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum has set aside a decision to impose penalty of Rs. 44,370 on the consumer and has asked the electricity supply company to pay him compensation of Rs. 5,000, apart from litigation expenses of Rs. 2,000.

The forum has also objected to the arbitrary manner in which the company disconnected power supply to the consumer.

Initial penalty

Officials of Mescom had charged Krishna Salian of Kurnadu in Bantwal taluk with using power to draw water from the pumpset for the construction of a house, on December 20, 1999. They had initially imposed penalty of Rs.1 lakh on him and removed the fuse and service wire of the installation. The authorities subsequently reduced the penalty to Rs. 44,370.

The case came up before the forum on two occasions. In 2004, the forum set aside the decision to issue the bill. But Mescom preferred an appeal before the State Consumer Disputes Commission.

Arbitrary

The commission observed that retroactive billing by Mescom at the rate of six hours a day for drawing water was “arbitrary” and directed it to reconsider the matter. Mescom issued a letter on October 16, 2008 asking the consumer to “submit a scientific record for illegal extraction of power.” It even contended that the consumer was duty bound to reveal how much power he had misused or how many thousands of litres of water he had used for construction of his house.

The matter came up before the district forum again. In its latest order, it said, “We are surprised to note the above statement. It is the opposite parties (Mescom) who have to maintain records”. The order said Mescom had failed to show any basis for the retroactive billing and had “disconnected power supply without offering any opportunity to the complainant to plead innocent.” It said the Mescom official had admitted before the forum that the consumption of power by the pumpset owner at the rate of six hours a day was his own estimate.

The forum asked Mescom to pay the compensation and the litigation costs to Mr. Salian by the end of the month, as it had not followed the required procedures with regard to investigation.

More In: Mangalore