Too Little Too Late

We keep on hearing through press reports and organizational campaigns that we are already on the path to Viksit Bharat. Factors like economic growth, social progress and environmental stability have a greater role to play in development of our country. The process can rightly be accelerated through effective citizen and business centric reforms, ease of living, innovation, discipline and transformative behaviour.  Mile stones are already defined. As per IMF, India will be 4th largest economy after overtaking Japan by 2025 and 3rd after overtaking Germany by 2027. All are optimistic that by 2047 India will acquire status of a developed country.

It is time to take stock of reforms already accomplished and the ones underway. This will give us an idea about where we stand and whether we need to pace up.

I will be confining my detailing to Legal Metrology, in particular to weighing sector.

Legal Metrology Act came in to being in 2009 and became operational from 1st April 2011 along with Legal Metrology General Rules 2011.

In the last thirteen years two big tick reform have taken place so far as weighing sector is concerned. Rest all amendments have been towards addressing misinterpretations at enforcement level, although the Act does not lack clarity.

Few amendments branded as reforms speak for themselves: –

(1) Legal Metrology (General) Amendment Rules,2012—- Rule 21 already existed in this regard. 21A has been added to elaborate Conditions, etc. for manufacture of a non-standard weight or measure exclusively for scientific investigation or research, mandating prior approval from DOCA.

(2) Legal Metrology (General) Amendment Rules, 2016. ——- Automatic instruments for weighing road vehicles in motion and measuring axle loads introduced.  Progressive and a big tick reform   in the direction of market expansion.

(3) Legal Metrology (General) (Amendment) Rules, 2021,3 March 2021

(i) Avoidance of double stamping. Progressive step

(ii)Machines used by industries for internal use need no reverification.

Act already contained clear cut stipulation that machines not used for transaction and protection do not come under the ambit of verification.

Ten years taken to implement the Act provisionA case of misinterpretation

(iii) All types of Weights and measures used for domestic use to be verified at manufacturing state.

This amendment has been pushed against the provisions of the Act. Machines used for domestic purpose do not come under transaction and protection category and fall beyond the ambit of verification, as covered in (ii) above. 

Ambiguity introduced

(iv) Clause on availability of straight track and gradient of not more than 1:400, is an essential requisite for obtaining stipulated accuracy in weighing in motion rail weighbridges as remains also reflected in RDSO specifications.

In spite of industry recommendations against it, this clause was omitted, under scoring potential threat to weighing accuracy.

Ambiguity introduced

(4) Dealership Licence under section 23 of the Legal Metrology Act 2009, clarification circular dated 12th December 2022 issued to settle so called ambiguity.

A case of misinterpretation

The Integrated Goods and Services Tax or IGST is a tax under the GST regime that is applied on the interstate (between 2 states) supply of goods and/or services. The IGST is governed by the IGST Act and became effective from July 2017.

Contrary to no legal requirement for a dealership license in different states, except for the manufacturing state where from the product is sold under IGST regime, such licence was being insisted upon by enforcers at ground level.

Misinterpretation ruled for good 5 years before being addressed

(5) Legal Metrology (General) Amendment Rules, 2022. 4th October Rule 29

Allowing the companies, having different establishments or branches or different units in any establishment or branch to nominate an officer who has the authority and responsibility for planning, directing and controlling the activities of the establishments or branches or different units instead of allowing only the nomination of a Director.

Above stipulation is already part of Legal Metrology Act 2009, section 49 (2) under explanation column. As per standard legal rule, in case of any ambiguity between the Act and Rules, provision of the Act prevails. Still amendment was warranted as enforcers at ground level did not accept it.

Case of ignoring the Act in the name of misinterpretation that ruled for 13 years

(6) OIML Certification System introduced in India

Progressive and a big tick reform

Legal Metrology Department of consumers affairs India is now an OIML issuing authority under OIML certification system, besides other 12 out of 63-member countries, conforming to accreditation standard ISO/IEC 17065. RRSL Ahmedabad is duly accredited under ISO/IEC 17025 for carrying out testing in this regard. Presently its scope in weighing includes only non-automatic machines and rest are to be included in due course. Besides earning foreign exchange, it opens opportunities for manufacturers to place their products in global market. Also, Certification scheme helps to avoid unnecessary re-testing when obtaining national type evaluations and approvals. By this approach, the measuring instrument type needs to be tested only once by an approved laboratory.

Reforms underway as per our knowledge

Couple of years have already gone by. Many interactive and heedful consultative meetings have taken place with the Regulator. It is hoped that we are nearer to resolutions.

List is big but Some critical and chronic issues are being touched upon: –

(1) One nation one standard for testing of Weighing Machines

Crucial requirement while testing the machines is that of Test weights. Different states apply different yard sticks and there is no uniformity in the quantum of test weights to be used and who is to provide these weights. Rules are unclear and not uniform. in case of higher capacity machines like Lorry Weighbridges, the cost of these weights works out to 2 to 3 times the cost of the machine. Regulator is fully aware of this limitation and had introduced test vehicles in some states to address the issue. But it is not a uniform practice all over the country. More than anything else, the given unclarity reduces verifiability at ground level, fosters opaque discretion in the hands of few and has potential of being misused.

(2) Certification of Machines

Section 24 of Legal Metrology Act 2009 mandates verification of weighing instruments after manufacturing and before sale and use. Thereafter recertification every year. It calls for physical visits of LMOS whose population ratio visa vis machines is estimated to be 1: > 110000. Resultant effect is long wait time, inventory hold up, capital blockage, operational disruptions and delivery failures. Being conscious of the problem, government introduced GATC Rules 2013 for third party certification. It did not take off because of lack of viability, as it is expected to cater to retail sector partially, using non-automatic weighing machines up to 15okg capacity only. It excludes 31 business sectors of India including MSMES, Large Industries, Mines & Minerals, Logistics, PSU, Railways etc. In the last 11 years it has also lost its alignment with the real market conditions. Amendments brought in the intervening period, only increased its complexity.

Practice of self-certification was proposed and Regulator could find some merit in it and thought expressed was to try it on pilot basis with some manufactures of repute. Nothing concrete has emerged thus far.

(3) Inclusion of Load Cells in Schedule — Heading A {Rule 13} L.M General Rules 2011

It was principally agreed in meetings by the Regulator, in order to ensure manufacturing of world class products in India.

(4) Inclusion of following exclusions from OIML recommended list under OIML -CS in India.

Load Cells, Automatic Catch Weighers, Automatic Rail Weighbridges and Weighing Road vehicles in Motion

It was principally agreed in meetings by the Regulator that in the interest of market expansion and to lend impetus to foreign exchange earnings, it will be accomplished sooner

It has rightly been said that justice delayed is justice denied. Same holds true in case of delay in redressal of ambiguities and misinterpretations of Rules. Ambiguity occurs where there is a lack of clarity or when there is uncertainty about the application of a law. Its direct result, if not addressed, is increased litigation and increase in pendency of cases in courts. It further overburdens the litigants economically and reduces productivity. After all we are all humans and possess both positives and negatives. Therefore, we cannot rule out some sections amongst us thriving on such ambiguities. Delayed correction means only prolonging such negativity. HDI (human development index) is one of the major rating criteria’s for determining the status of a developed country besides gross domestic product (GDP), gross national product (GNP), the per capita income, level of industrialization, amount of wide spread infrastructure and general standard of living. Similarly delay in reforms means missed opportunities, which can prove costly at national level, particularly when mile stones are already defined.

There is no denying that DOCA is all willing to extend regulatory support to stake holders and it has been demonstrated time and again. To speed up the process of reformation, it is highly important to take enforcement agencies of states effectively on board and to percolate down the importance of such reforms at national level.

We have every hope that reformation process will be accelerated and results of the same will be visible to all stake holders in near future. To facilitate that, link of this blog is being sent to Secretary consumer Affairs, Additional Secretary consumer Affairs and Director Legal Metrology for their kind perusal and action.

On the way to finding solutions, WEMA is ever committed to work with the Govt in furthering its agenda of reformation and transformation towards realising the bigger goal of ‘Developed India’.

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