Just as the name suggests, the electricity theft is basically the theft of electrical power which hails from the section of non-technical losses for which several punishments attract inclusive of fines and incarceration. The criminal practice of electricity theft is rampantly increasing in developing countries with global cost of around $89.3 billion every year affecting the public revenue, pulling up the economic growth to decreasing steps and disturbing the terms of society which is a definite cause of concern for the countries.
Tracing back to the history, one of the initial cases as also once published by the daily yellowstone journal reported on March 27, 1886 that the Electricity espionage was accomplished by unscrupulous persons tapping into Edison Electricity in New York leading the then Superintendent of the power station to send a power surge into the line to burn out or destroy foreign objects trespassing on the line.
Observing the scenario in India, several global and domestic reports timely has showcased the issue sensitivity of the subject with rapid increase in the cases within the country specific apart from the global point of view. One of such surveys (2015) by the northeast group highlighted that the country on an estimating note was suffering to the negative cost by theft for around $16.2bn per year. The President of The Northeast Group Ben Gardner stated: “India loses more money to theft than any other country in the world. The state of Maharashtra—which includes Mumbai—alone loses $2.8 billion per year, more than all but eight countries in the world. Nationally, total transmission and distribution losses approach 23% and some states’ losses exceed 50%.” Which clearly show the how prone the Indian society is to such practices.
Back to 2021, the recent news of power theft raid in haryana with a massive success rate clarified the active measures that are adopted by the governments and on the second note plugged in the thoughts regarding the continuous prevail of such practices comparing to 2015, where government specified the 10 year model to control and have such incidents decreased by the year 2025. The authorities of power utilities in Haryana reportedly detected almost 2,500 cases of electricity theft while conducting raids at industries and commercial establishments in five towns and cities of the state. Haryana Power Minister Ranjit Chautala referred to the move as “unprecedented in the history of the state”. An official further stated: There is an annual billing of Rs 25,000 crore for electricity consumption in Haryana. If even one per cent electricity is stolen, it can cause a loss of Rs 250 crore to the state exchequer. We can keep the electricity tariff at a constant if we succeed in stopping electricity theft and pointed out the level of negative impact it departs on the government revenue claimable for the general public interest.
TYPES OF ELECTRICITY THEFTVarious types of electrical theft can be conceptualized. From Tapping of a line to bypassing the energy meter there exist several patterns. A study shows that around 80% of electricity thefts that occur globally engage within private dwellings and the rest 20% on commercial and industrial premises. The various types of electrical power theft can be understood as;
√ DIRECT LINE HOOK
The most used Cable hooking method which nearly covers the 80% of global power theft occurs with the tampering into a power line from a point ahead of the energy meter in which the energy consumption remains unmeasured and procured with/without switches.
√ THE ENERGY METER BYPASS
By bridging the input terminal and output terminal of the energy meter, this method helps the consumers to prevent the energy from registering in the energy meter and have their theft successful without getting traced easily.
√ FOREIGN ELEMENT INTRODUCTION IN ENERGY METER
By manipulating meters with the help of a remote like device and installation of a circuit inside the meter to slow down the meter whenever intended with the control over the same. This is one of the most manipulative methods because “This kind of modification can evade external inspection attempts because the meter is always correct unless the remote is turned on”.
In this method, tampering is done to electromechanical meters with a rotating element with some sort of insertion of foreign materials obstructing the free movement of the disc with the placing inside the meter for reason being a slower rotating disk signals less energy consumption.
√ ESD ATTACK ON ELECTRO-METERS
This type of tampering is basically done on electro-meters to either make the meter latently damaged or permanently damaged. Only high end meters can be correctly detected.
SPECIFIC LEGAL PROVISIONS: INDIAWith the enactment of The Electricity Act back in 2003 the regulatory powers were enhanced to provide a healthy mechanism for tracing the electricity theft and enlist provisions for the same to enable claim of right and detail penal provisions. The Chapter XIV in the Electricity Act, 2003 deals with the offences and punishments for such activities. The act indeed was an appropriate step to curb the vacate insight of procedure and appreciate a reform in the society to help in pushing the evil to penalties and victims to claim subjectivity.
Accordingly with the section 135 of the act, there are some elements which needs to be satisfied to attract the penal provisions and impose liability, inclusive of;
MENTAL ELEMENT ( MENS REA )
Mental element of an offence is necessary to prove the malafide intent of the offender connected with the commission of the offence and activities so alleged. The word “dishonesty” as termed under Section 135 of Electricity Act, 2003 means with the reference that the act shall be committed with a malicious intent, which specifies that whenever an abnormal way is used to consume the electricity which a prudent man would generally resist from, the mental element gets proved with the links so established.
• PHYSICAL ELEMENT ( ACTUS REUS )
The commission of the act must be proved as an essential element to attract the provisions, for the reason an actual activity must be proved to have been committed for the declaration of liability.
PUNISHMENTUNDER SPECIAL LAW
The offence of Electricity Theft is punishable within Sections 135 – section 150 of the Electricity Act, 2003. Whereas the said sections mention;
Section 135: The foundational penalty lies with regard to the number of times the electricity theft has proved to be committed.
Punishment: Imprisonment not exceeding 5 years or fine not less than six times of financial gains or both.
Section 136: Liability to punishment under this section lies depending on the factor that the offender took the possession of wires , or he took the wire away from one place to another or when the offender used the wire without the consent of the supplier.
Punishment: Imprisonment not exceeding three years or fine or both.
Section 137: Recieving wire or any type of stolen electrical material shall attract liability for punishment under this section.
Punishment: Imprisonment not exceeding three years or fine or both.
Section 138: The malafide intention related to connection, reconnection, deteriorating or fixing any electrical wire or material without the permission of the supplier ,the mens rea in general, will attract the penal provisions actively under this section.
Punishment: Imprisonment not exceeding three years or fine not exceeding Rs. 10000.
Section 140: Intentionally cutting off the electricity or injury or attempt to cut off the electricity or injurious damage to same will be accordingly punished under this section.
Punishment: Maximum fine of Rs. 10000.
APPLICABILITY OF THE INDIAN PENAL CODE,1860
Section 379 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 focuses with the matters of Theft of movable property. The aforementioned section penalises all kinds of theft committed to movable property of the other raising the question, whether in the matters of Electricity theft the said uniform provision of the penal code will be attracted?
The answer is in negative. Whenever any act is defined to be penalized via a special statute, the role of the general law gets restricted. The concept can be clearly understood with the help of several case laws where Judiciary declared the intervention extent of the acts;
1) In the case of ,Biswanath Patra vs Divisional Engineer (E) S And Lp, the Hon’ble High Court of Calcutta has held that “Once a person is said to have committed an alleged offence of theft of electricity, no case under Section 379 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 would lie in view of the specific provision of law contained in the Electricity Act, 2003 in this regard.”2) In the case of ,Avtar Singh vs. State of Punjab, the Apex court stated that “Electricity being not considered to be a movable property, there cannot be theft thereof within the meaning of Section 379 I.P.C.” which was also supported in the case of Syed Yaqoob Syed Masood vs The State of Maharashtra And Anr , that Electricity is energy and not property and section 379 will not be implemented accordingly with the definate measures of elements.
The rapid growth in the cases of Non-technical loss of Electricity theft has introduced barriers for the government and the society at par. It’s only when public is aware of their surroundings with the active stringent steps by the government can such activities be controlled. The loss incurred by the countries through such illegal activities decrease the scope of betterment provided the shift of focus towards revival of the status. Although India owns several legislations which can restore the claim and penalize the evil consumers but to curb the situation to its entirety, there still are some strict actions which the hour need. Rising tarriff and loss of utilities will increase day by day If the problem is not dealt with quickly adaptive measure
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