The Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court passed an interim order on 7th May, 2021, to stop Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) from taking any coercive action against jewellers who may not comply with BIS mandatory hallmarking regulations due to the lack of infrastructure, in response to a writ petition filed by All India Gem & Jewellery Domestic Council (GJC).
In a virtual hearing, appearing for GJC, Rohan Shah, Senior Advocate, reasoned 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 hardship to 5 lakh jewellers in India.
He added that in proportion to such a multitude of jewellers in India, the percentage of hallmarking centres available in India, is about 34% and that there are at least 488 districts, which do not have any hallmarking centres.
Shah further submitted that there are about six thousand crore pieces of jewellery, which need to be hallmarked. And 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.
The petitioners also noted that there are also other problems arising out of the present Covid restrictions, which prevent a person to travel from one district to another.
The court ruled that “no coercive action shall be taken against the jewellers under Section 29(2) of the BIS Act, 2016, till (the) next date of 14th June, 2021.”
Ashish Pethe, Chairman GJC, said, “The courts do realise the gravity of the issues of lack of infrastructure and hardship faced by jewellers... The Government cannot imprison any jeweller or levy any fines whatsoever for any default. 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.”