The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Police get power theft probe right
- Pilfering cases since 2003 to be opened

Calcutta, Aug. 7: Police have the right to probe power thefts and file chargesheets, the high court ruled today.

Courts did not accept police reports on power thefts so long as the high court had on different occasions observed that the earlier Indian Electricity Act, 1910, did not empower them to do so.

But Justice S.P. Mitra today gave retrospective effect to the order, allowing the police to take steps against the accused in all power theft cases since 2003, when a new electricity act came into force.

“After today’s order, CESC alone will be able to recover over Rs 8 crore. Consumers will benefit immensely because of it,” CESC executive director Santanu Chatterjee said.

The verdict will enable all power utilities to crack down on theft more effectively, Chatterjee added.

Officials of the West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company said theft was rampant in the districts. Today’s order will enable it to reopen all cases of power theft since 2003.

“We are yet to calculate the amount we will be able to recover,” said an official.

The earlier court orders — based on the 1910 law — had prevented power utilities from acting against offenders.

“No punitive measure could be taken even against those caught red-handed. When they were produced in court, the judges said the police had no authority to conduct an investigation. In only one case, the Alipore court sentenced a man to three years’ imprisonment on the basis of charges framed by our officers,” a CESC official said.

The order followed a petition by Subhas Chatterjee, a CESC consumer who alleged that though the police had no authority, it was issuing chargesheets in power theft cases.

Appearing for the CESC and the state electricity dist- ribution Company, advocates Jaymalya Bagchi and Jayanta Narayan Chatterjee said the central government’s Electricity Act, 2003, clearly says the police would be able to conduct a probe and file charges.

The lawyers said that before the new law was enacted, the accused were tried under the code of criminal prosecution, where the police did not have the right to file chargesheets. “The Electricity Act, 2003, clearly says the police will investigate and file chargesheets against the accused in theft cases when the utilities bring charges against them,” a lawyer said.

The petitioner’s lawyer said he would challenge today’s order in a higher court.

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