Allahabad High Court

Allahabad High Court: In a writ petition praying to resume electricity connection to the premises in occupation by the tenants who are in an occupancy dispute with the landlord, the Division Bench, Saumitra Dayal Singh and Manjive Shukla, JJ. has held that legal and authorized ‘occupier’ of the premises including tenant cannot be deprived of basic amenities like electricity connection. However, it refused to exercise their discretionary jurisdiction to issue any writ or direction upon the electricity corporation to grant electricity connection as the tenants are faced with a decree of eviction and in the absence of any stay order operating against the eviction decree, the tenants cannot be recognised as persons authorised to occupy the premises in dispute.

The tenants claim that their landlord was seeking to forcibly evict them from the property in question. The tenant, resultantly, filed a suit seeking injunction to restrain the landlord from evicting the tenants from the disputed premises except in accordance with law.

The landlord then filed a suit seeking eviction of the tenants, decree of which was passed ex parte. The tenants are currently seeking recall of the eviction decree whilst the landlord is seeking execution of the same. The situation has arisen such that the electricity connection has been disconnected by the electricity distribution corporation upon the application of the landlord.

The landlord claimed that there are outstanding dues of the electricity connection in excess of Rs 30,000 which the tenants are not willing to deposit but are seeking a fresh grant of electricity connection as occupiers in the disputed premises.

The Court reiterated that a tenant may not be deprived of an electricity connection due to a dispute with the landlord, and may not be left at the mercy of the landlord to avail such a basic amenity.

The Bench, in this light, discussed the meaning of the term ‘occupier’, their rights as well as the obligations of the distribution licensee in context of the Electricity Act, 2003 (‘the Act’), U.P. Electricity Code, 2005 (‘Code, 2005’) and the judgment Anand Kumar v State of U.P., 2023 (3) ADJ 668 (DB), wherein it was said that a tenant being ‘occupier’ may remain entitled to apply for a connection upon fulfilment of terms and conditions, especially, upon issuance of an indemnity bond.

The Court said that according to Section 43 of the Act, it is the statutory duty of the distribution licensee to supply electricity not only to the owner but also to the occupier of premises located within the limits of the area of its supply.

The Court further said that the right of a tenant to electricity connection springs from his inclusion in the term ‘occupier’ as defined under Section 2 (oo) of the Code, 2005

The Bench also said that before a person may claim to be an ‘occupier’ he must be seen to be a person authorised to occupy the premises. However, it noted that a trespasser or a person declared to be an unauthorised occupant may not claim any right to occupy the premises over which he may have been declared to be trespasser or an unauthorised occupant.

The Court said that asthe tenants are faced with a decree of eviction and in the absence of any stay order operating against the eviction decree, the Bench cannot recognise the tenants as persons authorised to occupy the premises in dispute. Thus, the fate of litigation may not be contemplated or speculated at this stage, by this Court exercising equitable jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.

The Court clarified that if the decree of eviction is set aside, recalled, or stayed, the tenants may remain entitled to apply for connection in accordance with law as discussed.

With the directions given, the Court disposed of the instant writ petition.

[Ashok Kumar Sharma v. State of UP, 2024 SCC OnLine All 709, Order dated 23-02-2024]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Petitioners: Advocate Ashish Kumar Srivastava

For Respondents: Chief Standing Counsel Udit Chandra

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