Gunaratne and another v. Ceylon Electricity Board and others
GUNARATNE AND ANOTHERV.
CEYLON ELECTRICITY BOARD AND OTHERS
COURT OF APPEALGUNASEKERA, J.
C.A. 1139/8816 JANUARY, 1990
Writ of Mandamus – Ceylon Electricity Board Act, No. 17 of 1969 – Supply of electricalenergy – Right to claim previous arrears from new occupier.
Under s. 50 of the Electricity Act a licensee cannot demand from a subsequentoccupier of premises the payment of arrears due from a previous occupier as acondition precedent for the supply of electrical energy to the new occupier.
APPLICATION for a writ of mandamus on the respondent to connect supply ofelectrical energy.
L. V. P. Wettasinghe with Saliya Matthew and Miss. S. M. Senaratnefor 2nd petitioner.
Chula de Silva, P.C. with M. Hussain, R. Develigama and C. Liyanapatabendi for therespondents.
Cur. adv. vult.
Sri Lanka Law Reports
(1991) 1 Sri L.R.
12 September 1990.
The Petitioners have filed this application on 9th Nov. 1988 andprayed for a declaration to the effect that :
the action of the 1st Respondent in withholding a supply ofelectrical energy to premises No. 5, 4th Lane, Ratmalana isunlawful;
the action of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Respondents in calling uponthe Petitioners to pay the arrears due from the former occupierof premises No. 5 4th Lane, Ratmalana, as a condition ofreconnecting the electrical supply is unlawful;
the Petitioners as owners occupiers of premises No. 5, 4th LaneRatmalana have been denied equality of treatment vis-a-vis otherconsumers of electrical energy in the locality.
imposing a service charge as distinct from a reconnection chargefor reconnecting electricity supply to premises No. 5, 4th LaneRatmalana is unlawful.
and prayed for the grant and issue of a Mandate in the nature of awrit of a Mandamus directing the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Respondents tosupply electrical energy to premises No. 5, 4th Lane Ratmalana forth-with without calling for any further payment whatsoever and for costs.
The 1st Petitioner's case is that he became the tenant of premisesNo. 5, 4th Lane Ratmalana with effect from 1st August 1988 havingtaken it on rent from the 2nd Petitioner who is its owner.
In his petition the Petitioner claimed that the 1st Respondent was aCorporation established under the Ceylon Electricity Board Act No.17 of 1969 and has all the powers of a licensee under Sec. 81 ofthe Electricity Acf. The 2nd Respondent was the General Managerof the 1st Respondent and under sec. 5 of the Electricity Board Actwas vested with the organisation and execution of the powers,functions and duties of the 1st Respondent and the administrativecontrol of the employees of the 1st Respondent and that the 3rd
Gunaratne and another v. Ceylon Electricity Board and others(Gunasekera, J.)
Respondent was the Electrical Engineer and was a servant andAgent of the 1st Respondent.
The Petitioner submitted that premises No. 5 and 5A, 4th LaneRatmalana were twin residential houses which were tenanted forabout 20 years by one Mrs. G. R. Amarasekera and Mrs. X. I. M.Peries respectively and that electrical supply to premises No. 5, 4thLane Ratmalana had been disconnected by the 1st Respondent atthe request of the former tenant Mrs. Amarasekera by her letterdated 19th July 1987 as she was vacating the premises.
It was the case of the 1st Petitioner that the 2nd Petitioner submitteda written application to the 3rd Respondent on form 03/16 for thereconnection of electrical energy and change of consumer topremises No. 5, 4th Lane on or about 20th July 1988 the receipt ofwhich was acknowledged by letter of 26th July 1988 and the 2ndPetitioner was required to furnish further particulars. On furnishingthe required particulars by the 2nd Petitioner on or about 2nd August1988 a letter was issued by the 3rd Respondent along with payingvouchers for Rs. 100/- and Rs. 500/- respectively'being reconnectioncharges and security deposit. These sums of money were duly paidat the office of the 1st Respondent on 2nd August 1988.
The 1st Petitioner claims that he also paid sums of Rs. 100/- andRs. 500/- in cash in respect of adjoining premises bearingassessment No. 5A, 4th Lane Ratmalana on behalf of his wife onthe same day as security deposit and reconnection charges and thereceipts in respect of premises 5A were given to the Petitioner butnot those in respect of premises No. 5. The 1st Petitioner stated thatone Mr. Mahinda of the consumer section of the 1st Respondent'soffice to whom the application of the 2nd Petitioner along with thepaying in vouchers, duly paid for Rs. 500/- and Rs. 100/- beingsecurity deposit and reconnection charges in respect of premises No.
5 were given had informed him that no service connection could begranted in respect of premises No. 5 as arrears amounting to Rs.491/- was due from Mrs. E. R. Amerasekera the previous occupierwho was the former tenant of the premises.
The 1st Petitioner contended that the refusal of the Respondents tosupply electrical energy to premises No. 5 is unlawful and prayedfor relief as set out in the prayer to the Petition.
Sri Lanka Law Reports
(1991) 1 Sri L.R.
The Petitioner submitted that the previous occupier of the premisesin question had given ample notice to the Respondents to have thesupply of electricity disconnected by letter dated 24th March 1987but the Respondents are alleged to have disconnected the supply18 months later on 28.8.1968 and that he was not liable in law topay any arrears of the previous occupier.
His contention was that the premises were locked and the mainswitch switched off and the gate closed and padlocked from 7.4.87after the previous occupier had left and that nobody had access toit. His position was that any purported readings after 7.4.87 cannotbe correct as no access was possible to the premises to read themeter.
The 1st Petitioner also contended that there was a duty cast bystatute namely the Electricity Act as amended by the CeylonElectricity Board Act to supply electrical energy to him in terms ofsection 83.
Learned Counsel for the Respondents contended that although theprevious occupier had left the premises in question the meter readingcard marked R1 clearly shows that electricity has been consumedin the premises up to November and that it should be presumed thatsuch consumption had been by the Petitioner or consumed on hisbehalf.
In the circumstances the learned Counsel submitted that thePetitioner was liable in law to pay for such consumption beforeelectrical energy is reconnected to the premises.
On a consideration of R3 it appears that although the Respondentshave been informed well in time by letter dated 24.3.87 that theprevious occupier was leaving the premises on 7.4.87 that they havefailed to disconnect the supply for a considerable length of time.
On the material placed by the respondent in this case there isnothing to controvert the position taken up by the Petitioners thatthis premises was unoccupied and locked up from 7.4.87.
A consideration of the provisions of section 50 of the Electricity Actreveals that a licensee cannot demand from a subsequent occupierof premises the payment of arrears due from a previous occupieras a condition precedent for the supply of electrical enerav. This
Abdul Hasheeb v. Mendis Perera and others
section states that "Where the occupier of any premises to whichenergy has been supplied for his use by a licensee, leaves thepremises without paying all sums due from him to the licensee inrespect of the energy supplied or in respect of meter rent, thelicensee shall not be entitled to demand from the next occupier ofthe premises as a condition of the supply of energy to him, paymentof the sum so left by the former occupier".
On a consideration of the material placed before me, I am of theview that the Respondents are not entitled to demand from thePetitioner the payment of arrears due on account of the electricalenergy supplied to this premises for the period April to November1987.
In the circumstances the Petitioner is entitled to the relief prayed for.Accordingly the Respondents are directed to supply electrical energyto No. 5, 4th lane Ratmalana without calling for any further payment.The Petitioner's application is allowed with costs.
GUNARATNE AND ANOTHER v. CEYLON ELECTRICITY BOARD AND OTHERS