The Department of Consumer Affairs, Legal Metrology Division had invited stakeholder consultations on the proposal for decriminalization of the Legal Metrology Act, 2009 (“LM Act”) on 13 July, 2020. The LM Act is the primary instrument which establishes, enforces and regulates the standards of weights and measures in the country. Revisions have been suggested for penalties between Sections 25 and 53 of the LM Act governing the manufacture or sale of non standard weights, selling of non-standard packaging with incorrect mandatory declarations, etc.
- Augmented fines as proposed revision: The proposed revisions suggest inflated fines of Rs. 1 Lakh, Rs. 2 Lakhs and Rs. 10 Lakhs in place of the term of imprisonment decided for second or subsequent offences. Some key provisions and their proposed fines are provided below:
- Penalty for making any transaction, deal or contract in contravention of the prescribed standards under Section 28 – fine of Rs. 1 Lakh
- Penalty for non-production of documents under Section 31 – fine of Rs. 2 Lakhs
- Penalty for contravention of Act or Rules or conditions of licence by GATC under Section 37 – fine of Rs. 2 Lakhs
- Penalty for use of non-standard weight, measure or numeration under Section 25 – fine of Rs. 10 Lakhs
- Penalty for tampering or altering of Standards weights and measures under Section 26 – fine of Rs. 10 Lakhs
- Penalty for manufacture or sale of non-standard weight or measure under Section 27 – fine of Rs. 10 Lakhs
- Person In-Charge of Business: The proposed revision would enable companies to nominate individuals on a managerial level as opposed to a directorial level as persons responsible for the conduct of business under Section 49 of the LM Act.
- Cancellation of Licences: Under the LM Act, a repairer, manufacturer and seller are required to obtain a licence for dealing with weights and measures. The proposed revisions to the LM Act include the initiation of State/Central Government issued process of cancellation of the said licence in case the compounding is not done after the appeal stage.
The decriminalization initiative was motivated by the understanding that a criminal offence often requires a much higher standard of proof i.e. to be beyond reasonable doubt, as compared to the threshold adopted for civil wrongs.
Accordingly, the Centre is of the view that offences which can be decriminalized should meet the following criteria:
- The offence should not have mens rea or criminal intent and accordingly the nature of non-compliance must be critically evaluated.
- The offence should not adversely affect the larger public interest.
While the decriminalization attempt in itself is a welcome step for the ease of doing business in India, the move is said to have received considerable opposition from certain States and Consumer Organisations.