In its aggressive drive to curb power thefts, Reliance Energy has registered 200 FIRs against 583 customers in 2017-2018, a company official said here on Wednesday.
This marks a steep increase of 66 percent over the previous fiscal when 120 cases were lodged against 411 customers in 2016-2017, in the company's war against power thefts.
The majority of the offenders were from the high theft-prone clusters of Shivaji Nagar, Cheetah Camp, Trombay, Mankhurd, Behrampada, Juhu Lane and Malvani in the eastern and western suburbs.
The crackdown on power thieves helped the company to reduce its transmission and distribution losses to 8.12 percent last year in 2017-2018, the lowest in the country, from 8.83 per cent in the previous year.
Reliance Energy also recovered fines of Rs.14.63 crore from these cases where the offenders agreed to settle the bills instead of facing legal proceedings, and FIRs were lodged in the remaining 200 cases.
The company's Vigilance & Enforcement teams with the help of the local police authorities, recovered 51 tonnes of illegal wires in 2,900 power cases so far.
Stealing electricity is a serious non-bailable offence under Section 135 of the Electricity Act, 2003, with punishments that attract a jail term of upto three years and or a fine.
In the landmark move last year in August, the Shivaji Nagar police had invoked the dreaded Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against a gang of serial offenders accused of power thefts and illegal distribution in Chembur. They already had 24 such case registered against them.
"The power demand in certain slums is already high, new network development is not feasible due to space constraints and power thefts overloads the network. This increases the cost of servicing as cables and transformers are more prone to failures, adding to repair and maintenance costs," said a spokesperson.
For Reliance Energy, the situation is particularly tricky as from its 30 lakh consumers, around one-third (10 lakh) are slumdwellers, spread across 400 square kms of Mumbai suburbs and surroundings.
The spokesperson said that invoking MCOCA in power theft cases is an encouraging move by the police especially since power theft is very hazardous as a person touching a live wire can sustain fatal injuries.
"We conduct regular raids in such pockets to book offenders, wipe out their illegal networks and we are confident that with MCOCA, it will further help eradicate this scourge from society," he added.