Jharkhand High Court: In a writ petition filed against Jharkhand Bijli Vitran Nigam Limited (‘JBVNL') rejecting electricity connections due to pending dues of the erstwhile occupant, Rajesh Shankar, J. held that refusal to electrical connections cannot be on the grounds of outstanding dues of the erstwhile owner/occupant since JBVNL have failed to show any nexus between the erstwhile and present owner of the said premises.
The present Writ Petition was filed against JBVNL by petitioners aggrieved by communication dated 3-09-2020 and 13-05-2022 rejecting applications for grant of fresh electrical connections on the ground of existence of dues of erstwhile owner against the premises. The Court mentioned judgment dated 21-12-2021, wherein, the Court disposed of the matter for the petitioner having efficacious remedy before the Vidyut Upbhokta Shikayat Niwaran Forum (‘VUSNF') against refusal of fresh electrical connection by JBVNL. The Letters Patent Appeal (LPA) led to the decision being set aside by the Division Bench requiring the matter to be heard by the single judge on merit rather than dismissing the same on the ground of alternate remedy.
Thus, the Court in the present matter considered the question of whether the petitioners are bound to pay the dues of the erstwhile consumer for obtaining fresh electrical connection in the premises in question, and whether there is any statutory rule in the State of Jharkhand which mandates for recovery of electricity dues of erstwhile consumer from the subsequent purchaser.
The Court said that “it is well settled that generally transferee cannot be held liable for the dues of the erstwhile owner/occupier of the premises, however, if there is a statutory rule for holding the subsequent purchaser liable for the dues of the erstwhile owner/occupier, then the distribution licensee may compel the subsequent purchaser to pay the dues before getting fresh electrical connection.”
Referring to the Clause 6.10(a) of the Jharkhand State Electricity Regulatory Commission (Electricity Supply Code) Regulations, 2015 (hereinafter referred as ‘2015 Regulations') laying for the procedure of getting electrical connection, the Court admitted that the dues are not in the petitioner's name and regarding dues on the premises, petitioners lack any nexus with the erstwhile consumer. The Court also mentioned Clause 5.3.3 casting duty upon the purchaser of a property to ensure that the previous owner has got No Dues Certificate, or himself seek the same from the distribution licensee within a month and also provides that in the absence of any such intimation within the given time, the new connection shall not be denied on the grounds of outstanding dues of the previous consumer. The Court observed that the said clause nowhere provides for the liability of the new occupant against that of previous consumer for the purpose of securing a new connection.
The Court acknowledged the petitioner's claim of the said premises being transferred to them by the erstwhile consumer by virtue of registered sale deeds. The Court relied on Om Prakash Garg v. Jharkhand Vijli Vitran Nigam Limited, 2019 SCC OnLine Jhar 1218 wherein, the Division Bench denied compulsion on a purchaser of a property to produce No Dues Certificate prior to the 2015 Regulations coming into force. It further added that “Regulation 6.10 of the Regulations, 2015 is a pari materia to Regulation 5.5 of the Regulations, 2005 and conjoint reading of both the provisions would indicate that in order to deny new connection to the premises of the transferee, there should be a nexus of the applicant with the previous owner/occupant.”
The Court held that electrical connection to the petitioners cannot be refused on the grounds of outstanding dues of the erstwhile owner/occupant as the respondents have failed to show any nexus between them.
The Court quashed the communication dated 3-09-2020 and 13-05-2022 pursuant to the two Writ Petitions. The Court also directed JBVNL to provide electrical connections to the petitioners in the said premises within three weeks, however, leaving JBVNL at liberty to pursue the certificate case pending for realisation of outstanding dues against the erstwhile consumer.
[Shivam Builders and Developers v. Jharkhand Urja Vikas Nigam Ltd., 2023 SCC OnLine Jhar 269, dated 9-02-2023]
Judgment by: Justice Rajesh Shankar
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For Petitioners: Senior Advocate M.S. Mittal, Advocate Salona Mittal
For Respondents: Advocate Manoj Kumar