BJP MLA Suresh Halwankar and his brother Mahadev were on 03-05-2014 sentenced to three years' imprisonment by a court in Kolhapur district in an electricity theft case filed by the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company (MSEDCL) six years ago. Special public prosecutor Ujwala Pawar told TOI that this could well be the first time in the state that an MLA had been found guilty under the Electricity Act, 2003. It empowers the judiciary to award a maximum of three years in jail.
The court suspended its order from execution for 60 days awarding time to the parties to appeal in higher courts.
Principal secretary of the Maharashtra state legislative assembly Anant Kalse told TOI that according to Supreme Court's recent judgment about the 'Representation of the People Act 1951' once the court awards punishment to the people representative, he or she is disqualified with immediate effect.
"In its judgment in the Lily Thomas versus Union of India case, SC has ruled that any Member of Parliament (MP), Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) or Member of a Legislative Council (MLC) who is convicted of a crime with more than two year sentence will be disqualified as an elected representative on the date of conviction," he said.
Since there was no history of implementation of the law in recent times we need to study the court order as well, he added.
Suresh (51) is the BJP's Kolhapur district president. He was a corporator in the Ichalkaranji Municipal Council in 1995, 2000 and 2005 and deputy councillor of Ichalkaranji in 2000.
The MSEDCL contended that Suresh who has a powerloom business had tampered with the meter which showed 45% less power consumption. The electricity company had raided Halwankar's business in Ichalkaranji in September 2008 and calculated theft at Rs 20 lakh.
The public prosecutor said that the Ichalkaranji court's decision would be a milestone in electricity theft cases and would help the power company curb thefts.
"The flying squad of the MSEDCL raided Suresh's powerlooms in September 2008 and found the electricity meter tampered with, slowing it down by almost 45%. The squad also exposed how Halwankar was using foreign material to slow down the meter," said Ujwala Pawar.
"We argued over two main sections of the Electricity Act and the court upheld our arguments," Pawar added.
Suresh's lawyer S C Karandikar said that his client would appeal in the Bombay high court once a copy of the judgment was studied.