January 29, 2018
Case name: Suresh Ganpati Halvankar v. The State of Maharashtra & ors.
Date of Judgment: January 22, 2018
In this recent case, Two-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court has categorically stated that interference or maliciously injuring meters under Section 138 of the Electricity Act is theft of electricity and hence a compoundable offence under Section 152 of the Electricity Act .
In the case, the Appellants challenged Bombay High Court’s judgment whereby the Court compounded the offence of theft of electricity under Section 135 of the Electricity Act (theft of electricity) but refused to do so in view of Section 138 of the Electricity Act (Interference with meters or works of licensee), stating that though the said section deals with maliciously injuring electric meters, since it does not directly relate to the offence of theft it would not be covered by Section 152 of the Electricity Act (compounding of offences).
The Supreme Court Bench however, in the case took a contrary view to hold that theft of electricity is a compoundable offence. The observations made by the Bench in the case are as under:
- That Section 135 of the Electricity Act and Section 138 of the Electricity Act, which impose a maximum sentence of three years, both deal with theft of electricity.
- That the High Court has taken a very narrow view of Section 152 of the Electricity Act by stating that an offence of theft is related stricto senso to Section 135 of the Electricity Act since that section alone deals with the offence of theft, but would not specifically refer to Section 138 of the Electricity Act which only indirectly relates to the offence of theft.
- That Section 138 would also be so subsumed as the language of Section 152 of the Electricity Act specifically states ……”an offence of theft” which according to Stroud’s Judicial Dictionary, as well as Ramanatha Iyer’s Law Lexicon, states that one meaning of ‘an’ is ‘any’. If the word ‘any’ is substituted for the word ‘an’ in Section 152 , it becomes clear that any offence relating to the theft of electricity is also within the ken of Section 152 .
- Section 138 of the Electricity Act also relates to theft of electricity, be it through maliciously injuring meters, and is therefore also within Section 152 , and can therefore be compounded.
The entire case can be accessed here.
 In narrow or in strict sense