Billy Joel’s 1989 hit, We Didn’t Start The Fire, recently featured in a Delhi court, which cited the song’s lyrics while sending an east Delhi businessman to jail for power theft.
Noting that 12% of the total electricity is lost in distribution or power theft, leading to crores in revenue loss, the order by Special Electricity Court’s Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) Devendra Kumar Sharma said, “It may be summarised in the world of the song by Billy Joel from his album, Storm Front, titled ‘We didn’t start the fire’. ‘It has always been burning. Since the world’s been turning’ goes the next line. People can say the same about power theft situation in India today. We didn’t start it. It seems like it has been always happening,” the order said.
The court sentenced the businessman to two years in jail and imposed a fine of around Rs 1.15 crore. The court said it has to be kept in mind that the convict was found to be involved in running commercial activities using stolen electricity to the tune of 45 KW.
The court observed that consumers should keep in mind the number of people who are not in a position to afford electricity. “Like persons below poverty line or farmers, who can also come into this category at least in time of distress due to famine or hailstorm, if not all the time. But the persons falling in the other category, that is being in a capacity to pay, if involved in electric theft, cannot be said to be a person in whose favour leniency should be taken,” it said.
ASJ Sharma added that earlier, only persons in positions of power were found to be involved in electricity theft, but lately the “privilege of the elite class” has been extended to their “kith and kin”. “Now it has spread like cancer and the mass theft of power has reached frightening proportions to say the least,” the court said.
Earlier in December, two businessmen in south Delhi were sentenced to one-year imprisonment and a fine of around Rs 10 lakh was imposed on them.
While sentencing them, Additional Sessions Judge Neelam Singh had said: “This is an economic offence wherein society as a whole is the victim and the honest taxpayers of electricity charges are the sufferers on account of the proved conduct of the convicts, who are getting unearned benefits on account of others.”