The Oriental Gas Company Act, 1857

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The Oriental Gas Company Act, 1857 (Act No. 5 OF 1857) dated 13th February, 1857 was enacted in the British period, with the aim and object to empower Oriental Gas Company, Ltd. The preamble of the Act speaks of applicability of joint stock Company formed under the Parliament Act and registered under Joint Stock Companies’ Act, 1856 in England in order to establish gas-work into India.

Section 1 of this Act makes provisions as to empowerment of Oriental Gas Company, Ltd. subject specified superintendence, for opening and breaking up the soil and pavement of street and bridges, etc. The said Company is empowered under this provision to do all necessary acts for supplying Gas to the residing populations of concerned places including towns of Calcutta. However, section 2 of the Act requires the Company not to enter or lay down any pipe or other works on private lands, being the land not dedicated to public use. But, such acts can be done by the Company with the consent of owner or occupiers of such lands or when such pipeline has already been lawfully laid down, and repairing thereof is to do by such Company, the Company in these situations can enter into such private lands. The Company is required to serve notices of its intention, to the concerned authorities, including Municipal Commissioners and other authorities, before breaking up streets, bridge drains or etc. However, exceptions are also provided when there are emergency situations occur.

Section 5 is important so far as it is connected with reinstatement. The section says that the company should complete the work with all possible speed and after the company completed its work for which it has broken up the road or pavement or etc., the company should fill in the ground and reinstate or make good such roads or pavements, etc. Similarly, the company should make provisions of proper fencing with guards, etc. when such work is in continuation. And if such reinstatement of streets or otherwise, is done with delay or even if such Company has without a notice started opening or braking up such streets or otherwise or does any act which in the previous provisions not required to do, then such company should forfeit certain sums for every day of continuance of such delay, to the persons having control or management of such street or otherwise. Similarly, other persons who is having control or management of such street, etc. in relation to which delay is being caused by Company, and such persons can reinstate such work and whatever expenses incurred thereon, should be repaid to such persons by Company.

Similarly, section 8 of the Act empowers the Clerk, Engineer, etc. to enter buildings for ascertaining quantity of gas consumed at all reasonable times as it consider necessary. The inspection of meters, fittings, etc. regulating the supply of Gas can be done for the said ascertainment of quantity of consumed gas. And persons hindering such officers while doing inspections and etc. for the said ascertainment will be liable to payment of fine certain rupees for such offences.

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Further, section 12 and 13 are important, makes penal provisions as to fraudulently using gas and for intentionally damaging pipes. Section 14 is important so far as it is connected with damaging of pipes, pillar or etc. belonging to the said company by any person, accidentally, then such person required to pay certain amount to the satisfaction of the Company. Section 21 is also significant provision as it is connected with the liability of the Company arising out of indictment for nuisance or consequent upon making or supplying Gas.

Unlike, other recent enactments which are being enacted after Indian got independence or some of the enactments even before such independence, this Act provides for interpretation clause in its last section i.e. section 27 of the Act, where all terms which are being used under this Act, are defined.

The interim report No. 248 on study ‘The Legal Enactments: Simplifications and Streamlining’ by the 20th Law Commission, namely “Obsolete Laws: Warranting Immediate Repeal” suggested repealing of this Act as the Oriental Gas Company which was English Company, now ceased to exist and was taken over by State of West Bengal by the Oriental Gas Company, Act 1960 (West Bengal Act no. 15 of 1960), as such the Act of 1857 remained un-served for the purpose. Also the same was suggested for repeal by the 10th Law commission’s report. And as the original Act is suggested for repealing the Act of 1867 (Act no. 11 of 1867), which was enacted to extend the application of original Act to certain provinces beyond town of Calcutta, also suggested for repealing.

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by Faim Khalilkhan Pathan.