Centre in consultation with States for decriminalisation of weights & measures Act

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on July 20, 2021

Ministry hopes to float draft Cabinet note this month to replace imprisonment with heavier fines for offenders

The Centre is trying to fast-track the proposed decriminalisation of the Legal Metrology Act 2009, which enforces standards related to weights and measures, and has invited comments from States on the matter, officials have said.

The suggested move, which could lead to the replacement of jail-terms for violators with heavy fines and cancellation of licence for subsequent offences, is expected to improve business sentiments and facilitate unclogging of courts, an official tracking the matter told BusinessLine.

“The Consumer Affairs Ministry, in a recent presentation to the Committee of Secretaries on reduction of compliance burden on industry, has said that it will circulate a Cabinet note on decriminalisation of the Legal Metrology Act by the end of July so that it can move forward on implementing the reform at the earliest,” the official added.

Easing compliance burden

The proposed move is part of the overall exercise being undertaken by various Central Ministries and Departments to reduce compliance burden for businesses and consumers.

The Legal Metrology Act, in its present form, prescribes imprisonment, in addition to fine, for second or subsequent offence.

“The Ministry has been looking at whether a second offence should indeed be treated as a criminal offence or should it be treated as a civil one and replaced with a higher financial penalty. A view of States has been sought in this matter before a Cabinet note is finalised,” the official said.

The benefits of decriminalisation of the Act could be two-fold. One it could uplift the sentiments of the business community which generally believes that imprisonment is a grave punishment not commensurate with the level of the wrong-doing (tampering with or not adhering to standards related to weights and measures). Secondly, it could majorly help in de-clogging of courts.

As per the National Judicial Data Grid, the pendency of cases is in excess of 3.9 crore, of which about 72 per cent are criminal cases.

“The Consumer Affairs Ministry is expected to act fast to ensure that the Cabinet note is finalised at the earliest and sent for clearance,” the official said.

Simplified procedure

As part of the exercise to reduce compliance burden on businesses and consumers, the Consumer Affairs Ministry is also aiming at granting BIS licences within a period of one month and is working on bringing 80 per cent of the applications under simplified procedure. The notification amending the regulations is under approval, the official said.

In an ambitious exercise to reduce compliance burden, more than 15,000 compliances have been identified by various Ministries and Departments and the industry, that could be removed. Of these more than 10,000 have been removed, as per data supplied to the Committee of Secretaries, the official said.

These include removal of renewal requirements for licences, reducing inspections,, standardising and simplifying returns filing and reducing the number of filings, rationalising or removing maintenance of registers and records, minimising or eliminating display requirements for licences, and digitising and simplifying all manual records and procedures. Most of the remaining are to be removed by August 15 2021.

Published on July 20, 2021

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