The Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court passed an interim order on May 7 which stops Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) from taking any coercive action on jewellers across India or impose penalty on those who may not comply with BIA (BIS Act, 2016) regulations, Section 29(2) on mandatory hallmarking due to the lack of adequate infrastructure in terms of assaying and hallmarking centres.
The Court ruled: "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."
The writ petition was filed by All India Gem & Jewellery Domestic Council (GJC), which is the industry's apex domestic Council that ensures promotion, protection and progress of jewellers. GJC was represented in court by counsel, Rohan Shah.
Ashish Pethe, Chairman, All India Gem & Jewellery Domestic Council (GJC) stated, "Courts have seen the hardship of the jewellers. The order stated that further contention is that in proportion to such multitude of jewellers in India - the percentage of hallmarking centres available in India, is just about 34% of the 733 districts in the country and that there are at least 488 districts in the country, which do not have any hallmarking centres. It is further submitted that there are about 6,000 crore pieces of jewellery, which still need to be hallmarked."
Nitin Khandelwal, Past Chairman, GJC, said, "Courts have been reasonable and strict with BIS as 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 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."
Saiyam Mehra, Vice Chairman, GJC, commented, "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 yet. And the court has in the meanwhile, directed that no coercive action shall be taken against the jewellers under Section 29(2) of the BIS Act, 2016, till next date of hearing on 14th June 2021. This is a big relief to the jewellers who shall now be fully protected from any actions from BIS even though they may wish to still go ahead with mandatory hallmarking."
Dinesh Jain, Director, GJC who 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."
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.
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