Mohamed Imranullah S.
MADURAI: Tamil Nadu Electricity Board consumers cannot institute civil suits challenging demand notices issued to them to pay dues without approaching higher officials concerned, the Madras High Court has ruled.
Allowing a second appeal filed by the Board before the Madurai Bench, Justice G. Rajasuria held that the civil courts did not have jurisdiction to entertain such suits and pass injunction orders.
The Judge said Section 5 of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (Recovery of Dues) Act, 1978, which provides for filing a suit within three months of receiving the demand notice, cannot be read in isolation.
It should be read in conjunction with Sections 3 and 4 of the Act.
Section 3 states that a consumer could prefer an appeal before the appellate authority prescribed by the Board if he/she disputes the liability to pay the dues.
Section 4 provides for issuing a fresh notice demanding the dues, determined by the appellate authority, along with penalty and cost of recovery.
Remedies under these Sections should be exhausted before filing a suit, he said.
Further, clauses 17.10 to 17.13 of the terms and conditions of TNEB contemplate a two-tier system for the charges to be collected in case of defective electric meters. An Assistant Executive Engineer/Executive Engineer could decide the quantum and the decision could be challenged before the Executive Engineer/Superintending Engineer. A suit cannot be instituted oblivious of these clauses formulated under Section 49 of the Indian Electricity (Supply) Act.
Mr. Justice Rajasuria also said that it was not mandatory on the part of TNEB to issue a notice to the consumer, under Rule 223 of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Manual, before quantifying the due amount as there were other statutory safeguards.
In the present case, the Additional District Munsif as well as the Principal District Judge of Tirunelveli had erroneously decreed the suit filed by a consumer against the Board, he said.
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