Hallmarking gold: Bombay HC relief to jewellers till June 29
The Bombay high court (HC) recently refrained the Central government from acting against jewellers who have not complied with the January 15 order that mandates the compulsory hallmarking of jewellery and prohibits the sale and stamping of higher purity gold ornaments. The rule will come into effect from Tuesday, June 1 and the jewellers have been given the relief from coercive steps or penalty till June 29.
While HC said that it was not inclined to stay the effect and operation of the January 15 order, it has asked the authorities to give jewellers more time owing to the pandemic. The bench also directed the Centre to set up more hallmarking centres across 22 out of the 26 districts in Maharashtra, which currently do not have such centres.
On May 21, a jewellers’ organisation, Pune Saraf Association, filed a petition through senior advocate Anil Anturkar and advocate Shubham H Misar, sought the quashing of the January 15 notification that mandated jewellers to register with the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and sell only hallmarked jewellery and artefacts made of 14, 18 and 22-carat gold from June. The notification had further warned of penalty and imprisonment of one year on violators.
While the hearing the petition, the bench was informed that the Centre had rejected the April representation by the jewellers’ body and hence, urgent reliefs were sought seeking a stay on the order owing to “complete lack of infrastructure” to implement the rule.
Advocate Arsh Mishra, representing BIS, informed the court that the Nagpur bench of HC had on May 9 directed the Centre to not take coercive action under the BIS Act against jewellers till June 14 for not hallmarking jewellery. Mishra added that new hallmark centres would come up as the pandemic situation normalised, and urged the court not to stay the Centre’s decision.
After hearing the arguments, the vacation bench of justice SJ Kathawalla and justice SP Tavade reserved its order, which was pronounced on May 27.
In its order, the bench noted, “Whilst we appreciate that hallmarking is essential for consumer protection and to prevent unfair trade practices, adequate and necessary infrastructure needs to first be put in place prior to impose such strict consequences on the petitioners… Considering the purpose for which the impugned order has been issued, we are not inclined to stay its effect and operation.”
The bench also noted that it would not be possible for certain jewellers to travel outside their district, as no hallmarking centre was established in their respective districts.
“Owing to the ongoing pandemic, coupled with the admitted lack of infrastructure of hallmark centres, we deem it fit to restrain the respondents [authorities] from taking coercive action against the petitioners,” said the bench.
The court then directed the jewellers to try ensuring maximum hallmarking at the currently operational centres, and posted further hearing to June 29.