The Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court passed an interim order on 7th May 2021 to stop BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) from taking any coercive action on jewellers who may not comply with BIS regulations due to the lack of infrastructure in a writ filed by All India Gem and Jewellery Domestic Council (GJC).
The Court ruled as follows:
1. Hearing is conducted through video conferencing and the learned counsel agreed that the audio and visual quality was proper.
2. The contention is that the new regulation making it compulsory to hallmark gold jewellery before it is stored or sold, which has to come into force w.e.f. 1st June 2021 is likely to result in great hardships to lakhs of jewellers in India and their number is stated to be 5 lakhs. Further contention is that in proportion to such multitude of jewellers in India, the percentage of hallmarking centres available in India, as per the chart given on page 211 is about 34% and that there are at least 488 districts, which do not have any hallmarking centres. It is further submitted that there are about six thousand crore pieces of jewellery, which need to be hallmarked. Further contention is that if there is any breach of the said mandate of law as provided under Sections 14 and 15 of the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 2016 (BIS Act), there is a penalty in the nature of offence as provided under Section 29 of the BIS Act, 2016 punishable with maximum imprisonment of one year. It is also submitted that within the time available, it could not be possible for all the jewellers and for every piece of jewellery presently available to be hallmarked before these provisions of law come into force.
3. It is further submitted that there are also other problems arising out of the present Covid restrictions, which prevent a person to travel from one district to another district and that there are several districts, which do not have any hallmarking centres.
4. In view of above, issue notice to the respondents, returnable on 14th June 2021.
5. Shri Ulhas Aurangabadkar, learned ASGI with Mrs. Mugdha Chandurkar, learned Advocate waives notice for respondents No.1 to 4.
6. Meanwhile, we direct that no coercive action shall be taken against the jewellers under Section 29(2) of the BIS Act, 2016, till next date.
7. Stand over to 14th June, 2021"
Counsel Mr Rohan Shah had appeared for GJC.
Mr. Ashish Pethe, Chairman GJC, said, “The courts do realise to gravity of the issues of lack of infrastructure and hardship faced by Jewellers, the court has ruled that no coercive action shall be taken against jewellers under Sec 29(2) of BIS Act 2016 the Govt cannot imprison any jeweller or levy any fines whatsoever for any default. Yes, the order is an interim order till the matter is again heard on the next hearing on 14th June 2021, but we feel BIS will look at the gravity of the order and will try to resolve what the court has envisaged and hold mandatory Hallmarking till things are fixed with the industry who are equally interested in Hallmarking applied in a reasonable manner. “
Mr. Dinesh Jain, Director GJC and represented GJC in the writ petition filed, commented, “The writ has been admitted on merit and notice has been issued to BIS and all respondents. BIS is wise enough to know what to do in such a situation and we are sure that BIS shall not proceed with mandatory hallmarking without doing their homework properly. GJC is fully supporting Hallmarking and pray in the writ petition that a ‘High Level Committee’ be constituted by Honourable court to streamline and resolve all issues for the benefit of Consumers, Jewellers and core objective of BIS.”
About GJC: All India Gem and Jewellery Domestic Council (GJC) represents over 5,00,000 players comprising manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, distributors, laboratories, gemmologists, designers, and allied services to the domestic Gems & Jewellery industry. The Council functions with the objective to address the industry, its functioning, and its cause with a 360° approach to promote and progress its growth, while protecting the industry's interests. GJC, since the last 15 years, has been serving as a bridge between the government and the trade by undertaking various initiatives on behalf of and for the industry.
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