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Decriminalization of Legal Metrology

The Legal Metrology Act 2009 is a primary instrument that establishes and enforces the standards of weights and measures under LMPC. The act also regulates trade in weight and measures in the country. Chapter V of the Legal Metrology Act sets out the various offenses and penalties under the Legal Metrology Act. However, the offenses committed under the act are criminal offenses and have the prescribed punishment under the act as well as in the Indian Penal Code. The punishment for committing the offense under the act can be imprisonment or the person shall be liable to pay the fine, or both the imprisonment and the fine. Amendment proposal was also made for Decriminalization of Legal Metrology.

National Workshop on Decriminalization of Legal Metrology Act

Speaking at the event of the national workshop on Legal Metrology in 2009, it was suggested by Mr. Goyal approach the decriminalized laws and sort support of estate to balance the interests of consumers with the need to simplify loss, which makes the business, particularly small enterprises, not put to undue hardship or trouble. 

The department of consumer affairs also organized the national workshop on the Legal Metrology Act 2009 on May 9th, 2022, which took deliberation from all the stakeholders on the issue of decriminalization of the Legal Metrology Act 2009. need to consider the decriminalization of Legal Metrology is important for the growth of business and to protect the interest of the consumer.

The purpose of the workshop has been to maintain the balance between consumers and industries, and the decriminalization of the legal metrology act, of 2009 was the central piece to be considered for the smooth function of running the business by removing unnecessary interference.

The object of the Workshop for Decriminalization of Legal Metrology Act

  1. The main objective of the workshop is to ensure that the customer is not short-shifted by way of the use of nonstandard weighted measures.
  2. And the customer is not short-shifted by incorrect disclosure without increasing the burden on business and hindering economic growth.
  3. Another main purpose of the workshop was the stakeholders' consultation to identify the success of decriminalization of the legal metrology act.
  4. The Legal Metrology Act facilitates the ease of doing business to protect the interests of the consumer and the growth of the stakeholders and the entire unit of the business.
  5. The object of the decriminalization of the Legal Metrology Act is to decrease the burden on business and inspire confidence amongst investors.
  6. Its goal is to focus on economic growth and the protection of consumer interests.
  7. However, Mens Rea, which means the malafide intention, plays an important role in the imposition of criminal liability, which makes it critical to evaluate the nature of non-compliance in the case of the detection of fraud as compared to negligence or omission.
  8. Major decisions have taken place in the meeting and various suggestions and proposals have been made for the Legal Metrology Act 2009.
  9. All the pros and cons have been considered while decriminalizing the Legal Metrology Act, 2009, and its certain provisions.

Why is there a need for the Decriminalization of Legal Metrology?

  1. The offenses under legal metrology or weight and measure are bailable offenses and non-cognizable offenses,
  2. By the commencement of these offenses, the offender cannot be arrested just on the mere complaint of any person.
  3. The investigation also cannot take place just based on the complaint.
  4. The investigation and the arrest will take place only after the order of the magistrate.
  5. Considering many other factors, the proposal of discrimination against legal metrology offenses has been made.

A violation under Legal Metrology

  1. Whenever any violation takes place and the inspector of Legal Metrology, who is an officer of Legal Metrology on the basis of inspection or complaint, depending on the case, issues a notice regards to such violation.
  2. After issuing the notice of the violation, if the person to whom the notice is issued, may compound the offense by paying the compounding fee.
  3. After paying the compounding fee, the case will be closed.
  4. If a person to whom the notice is issued does not agree with the charges made by the legal metrology officer,
    • He may appeal under section 50 of the act against the order or decision of the legal metrology officer, as it is a power of the Legal Metrology Officer.
    • Such an appeal shall be made to the controller of legal metrology.
  5. If the person in default or against whom the complaint is filed is not satisfied with the order of the Comptroller of Legal Metrology,
    • He may appeal against the order of the controller to the state government.
  6. In cases where compounding of offenses does not take place and no appeal is filed to the controller or the state government,
    • The legal metrology officer may file a case in the court of law to initiate the legal proceedings.
       
  7. The next step depends on the decision of the court on whether the case is to uphold or reject the charges made by the inspector.
  8. Under Legal Metrology, whenever a case is registered on the first or the subsequent offence, there is no provision for arresting the person.

Factor to consider for Decriminalization of Legal Metrology

  1. In the case of the non-compounding offense, the matter which is booked by the inspector and filed in the court of law, the court, after following the due procedure, summons the offender who may be
    1. Present personally or
    2. Through an advocate.
  2. However, if the court requires a person to be present personally before the court, and if he fails to do so, the court may
    1. Again, issue the summon, or
    2. Issue a warrant for such a person.
  3. In the absence of the offender, the court may issue a warrant after which the person needs to take bail from the court.
  4. Criminal offenses generally require the standard of proof to be beyond a reasonable doubt, and it is much more likely to be the standards adopted for civil wrongs.
  5. Many experts have even questioned the efficiency of criminal law in dealing with misconduct and put forward their opinion that
    1. Offenses of technical nature could be shifted to civil liability,
    2. Instead of putting them into criminal liability.
  6. The offenses which can be decriminalized should not have criminal intent, which means Mens Rea.
  7. However, it is difficult to evaluate the nature of non-compliance that is a fraud as compared to negligence or inadvertent omissions, where the larger public interest is adversely affected.
  8. In order to discriminate against the legal metrology offense, there is a need
    1. To review the criminal penalties and
    2. Civil penalties under the Legal Metrology Act 2009
  9. The charges should be imposed suitably for the imposition of criminal liability. For this purpose, there is a requirement to review and categorize the compoundable and non-compoundable offenses under the act.
  10. The Legal Metrology Act provides the opportunity to appeal against an order passed by the Legal Metrology officer of the state government.
    1. The appeal lies before the controller against the order of the inspector, and
    2. The appeal lies with the state government against the order of the controller.
  11. The factor which is to be considered also includes whether the second or subsequent offense should be
    1. Restrained in its current form, or
    2. Just limited to a fine,
    3. Converted into a penalty,
    4. Dealt with by an alternate mechanism, or
    5. Omitted altogether.
  12. If the legal metrology officer does not compound the offense, in such cases, the inspector can take further action for
    1. Cancellation of the license, or
    2. Permit obtained from the concerned central government or state government, or any other authority thereto.
  13. The suitable authority of
    1. The added judicatory mechanism,
    2. the existing panel, and
    3. The feasibility of alternate mechanisms would need to be explored from the perspective of ensuring speedy and effective trial and enforcement at the same time.
  14. The proposed fine is the maximum prescribed and the state government may fix the fine considering the nature and gravity of the offense.
  15. The department of Legal Metrology has received suggestions from various sources and, on the basis of these suggestions, they have proposed changes for the importance of exercises as well as their large-scale impact across society.
  16. The Legal Metrology Act, 2009 is administered by the Department of Consumer Affairs, which invites the comments from the following:
    1. Union Territory Administrations,
    2. State Government,
    3. Civil Society,
    4. Non-government organizations,
    5. Public and private sector organizations,
    6. Multilateral institutions, and
    7. Members of the public to submit their comments on the proposed amendments to the department.
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