Access to electricity should be construed as a human right, the Chhattisgarh High Court said recently.
“Access to electricity should be construed as a human right, of course, to the requirements to be satisfied under the Electricity laws. Denial of the same, even upon satisfying the requirements would amount to violation of human rights,” Justice Sanjay K Agrawal has said.
Justice Agrawal said so while deciding the petitions of three men – NR Sharma, Chottelal Yadav and Devendra Bohra – all residents of Kotmar, Raigarh.
The three men had been residing as tenants of M/s Ind Synergy Limited.
Sometime in the year 2016, they had applied with the Superintendent Engineer of Chhattisgarh State Power Distribution Company Limited for supply of electricity to their premises but in vain.
When they served a legal notice to the distribution licensee in August 2016, they were informed that since Ind Synergy, their landlord, was having high tension electricity connection which fell in arrears, no connection could be provided in those premises where outstanding payment is due and the matter is pending before the competent court.
Consequent to this, the instant petitions came to be filed before the high court.
Advocate Ashish Surana, counsel for petitioners submitted that Section 43(1) of the Electricity Act, 2003, is mandatory in nature and even for nonsupply of electricity connection, consequences have been provided under Section 43(3) of the Act and as such, the distributor is liable to pay a penalty of which may extend to 1,000 for each day of default .
He further submitted that the dispute relating to the bill raised for arrears due on part of Id Synergy is already pending consideration before the Chhattisgarh State Electricity Regulatory Commission which had granted interim relief to Ind Synergy against any coercive action.
A careful perusal of Section 43 of the Electricity Act, 2003 would show that in Section 43, word ‘shall’ has been used. Section 43 begins with the heading “duty to supply on request”. Section 44 begins with heading “exceptions from duty to supply electricity” stating that nothing shall be taken as requiring a distribution licencee to give supply of electricity to any premises if it is prevented from so doing by cyclone, floods, storms or other occurrences beyond his control. Therefore, it is quite vivid that there is statutory obligation to provide electricity to the owner of occupier of the premises”, the court said.
“Thus, from the statutory provisions of the Electricity Act, 2003,it flows that is it the intention of the Legislature to provide electricity supply to all the persons, whether they are the owners of the property or the occupiers like in the case of landlord or tenant, a mortgagee, assignee and any other person who is in lawful possession of the premises,” it added.
Justice Agrawal referred to the Supreme Court judgment in the case titled Chameli Singh and Others v State of UP and Another, where it discussed the components of right to live and specifically observed that the right to life includes the right to live with human dignity and further observed that right to live guaranteed in any civilised society implies the right to shelter and while discussing the right to shelter, it has been held that right to shelter includes electricity which is undisputedly an essential service to the shelter for human being.
It also noted that the Madras High Court, in the matter of TM Prakash and Others v The District Collector, Tiruvannamalai District, Tiruvannamalai, had held that access to electricity supply should also be considered as right to life in terms of Article 21 of the Constitution.
Holding the decision of the power supplier in the instant case as arbitrary, the high court directed that the petitioners be provided a new electricity connection within two weeks of completion of all formalities.