In today's complex marketplace, ensuring fair trade practices and protecting consumer rights are vital elements for any thriving economy. In India, the Legal Metrology Act of 2009 stands as a crucial legislation that aims to establish transparency, accuracy, and uniformity in weights, measures, and packaging of goods. The Act, along with its subsequent rules and regulations, creates a strong framework to safeguard the interests of consumers and promote equitable business practices. This article provides an insightful overview of the Legal Metrology Act 2009 in India, highlighting its key objectives, administration, provisions, penalties, and appeal.
The Legal Metrology Act, 2009 (hereinafter referred as Act) replaced the Standards of Weights and Measures Act, 1976, and the Standard Weights and Measures (Enforcement) Act, 1985. The Act contains five chapters and 57 Sections, stipulating that the base units of weights and measures specified in the Act shall be standard units of weights and measures throughout India.
The Weights and Measures Unit of Legal Metrology is a division managed under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution's Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India. In India the authority and duty to maintain weights and measures rules, regulations and proper implementation of weights and measures lies on both, the Centre and the States. Matters of National Policy and other related functions such as, uniform laws on weights and measures, technical regulations, training, precision laboratory facilities and implementation of the International Recommendation are the concern of the Central Government. In addition, it has to guide, coordinate and supervise the enforcement activities of the state enforcement machinery. The State Governments and Union Territory Administration are responsible for the day to day enforcement of the laws.
The Directorate of Legal Metrology in each state is in charge of enforcing the Legal Metrology Act. The Directorate is essentially a three-tier organisation comprised of the Inspector of Legal Metrology at the field level, Assistant Controllers of Legal Metrology at the district level, and the Controller of Legal Metrology with four Deputy Controllers sitting at the state level.
Offences relating to weights and measures are punished with fine or imprisonment or with both depending on the offence committed. Here are few common illegal activities and their penalties implied:
- Altering the weights and measures of the products is punished with a fine extending up to Rs 50,000. On the second or subsequent offence, imprisonment for a term not less than 6 months, extending up to 1 year or with fine or both. [Section 26]
- Manufacturing or sale of non-standard weights or measures is punished with fine up to Rs 20,000 or imprisonment extending up to 3 years on second or subsequent offence or both. [Section 27]
- Demanding or receiving any article or thing on service that is in excess or less than the quantity specified by contract or agreement is punished with a fine extending up to Rs 10,000. On second or subsequent offence, imprisonment extending up to 1 year or with fine or both. [Section 30]
- Sale or delivery of commodities, etc. by non-standard weight or measure is punished with a fine not less than Rs 2000 extending up to Rs 5000. On second or subsequent offence, imprisonment for term not less than 3 months extending up to 1 year, or with fine, or both. [Section 34]
- Selling, etc., of non-standard packages is punished with a fine up to Rs 25,000. On second offence extending up to Rs 50,000, for subsequent offence, with fine not less than Rs 50,000 extending up to Rs 1,00,000 or with imprisonment for a term extending to 1 year or with both. [Section 36 (1)]
- Manufacturing or packing or importing with error in net quantity is punished with imprisonment for a term extending up to 1 year or with fine extending up to Rs 10,000 or both. [Section 36(2)]
- Sale of any commodity in packed form at a price exceeding the Maximum Retail Price is punished with fine up to Rs 2,000 [Rule 32(2) of Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011]
- Destroy or erase to alter the MRP indicated by the manufacturer or packer or importer is punished with a fine of Rs 2,000. [Rule 32(2) of Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011]
Filing of Complaints and Appeal
As consumers, complaints can be lodged against individuals that use any weight or measure that contravenes standards, in any transaction, industrial production, or protection, (i.e., against a manufacturer, retailer, wholesaler, dealer, repairer of any weight or measure, importer, and/or packer of any weight, measure, or number-related item) to the District Legal Metrology Officer or the Commissioner of the respective states.
Aggrieved persons can file a complaint through the online platform - https://consumerhelpline.gov.in/, which will be forwarded to the appropriate officer for grievance redressal. One can register complaints by call on 1800-11-4000 or 1915 or through SMS on 8800001915.
In Tamil Nadu, the Department of Labour has initiated the Legal Metrology Complaint Tracking System enabling the consumers to file complaints through online web portal - https://tnlegalmetrology.in/ or through the mobile application, TN - LMCTS, with options of voice recording and video recording. Consumers may also file quick complaints by taking and uploading photographs of the commodity or the shop. Grievances related to weights and measures, MRP, packaged commodity regulations, etc. are addressed by respective staffs of the department with online tracking facilities and SMS updates to the complainant.
When such individuals against whom the complaint was filed and given the legal notice do not agree with the charges or decisions of lower authority, they may seek reconsideration or review under Section 50 of Legal Metrology Act that provides for appeal to higher authority. Appeal from the lower authority is to be done within 60 days from the date of order or decision issued by the previous officer.
Thus an appeal under Section 50 of Legal Metrology Act is as follows,
- The person not agreeing with the charges to the legal notice issued by the Inspector/ Officer of legal metrology of any violation or wrong against the Act, may appeal against the order or decision of the Officer to the Director of legal metrology;
- Decisions from the Director of Legal Metrology or Controller of Legal Metrology under delegated powers of Director Legal Metrology are appealed to the Central Government;
- In case there was no compounding of offence or no appeal was filed to the controller or the state government, the legal metrology officer may file the case in the court and initiate legal proceedings. The decision then lies in the court if the punishment given by the officer is to be upheld or rejected.
LICENSING REQUIREMENTS UNDER THE ACT
Any weights or measurements should be validated before being used in a transaction. The weights and measures that must be confirmed by Government Approved Test Centers shall be determined by the Central Government. The test centres will be informed by the federal and state governments.
Section 19 of the Act mandates every person who imports any Weight and Measure to register with the Director of Legal Metrology as an importer. Such holder of certificate as an importer must ensure that the Model of weight or measure imported is approved by the Central govt. before sale in India.
Section 23 of the Act prohibits any manufacturer, repairer or dealer to manufacture, repair or sell such weights or measures without a licence from the Controller of Legal Metrology.
The Legal Metrology Act, 2009 encompasses a wide range of provisions that govern various aspects of measurement standards and practices by mandating the use of verified and calibrated weighing and measuring instruments, protecting the consumers from malpractices and transparent trading. Moreover, it is vital to raise awareness about the Act and its implications.