The Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court has restrained the Consumer Affairs Ministry from taking any coercive action against jewellers for holding non-hallmarked jewellery till the next hearing on June 14.
On hearing the petitioners on video conferencing, Justices Sunil B Shukre and Avinash G Gharote, in an interim order, directed BIS not to take any coercive action against jewellers under Section 29(2) of the BIS Act, 2016, till next date, and adjourned the case to June 14.
The council pleaded that of the 733 districts in the country only 245 districts have assaying and hallmarking centres.
As per recent data taken from BIS website, there are 940 A&H centres spread across 245 districts in India, with the number of jewellers registered with BIS at 31,585.
The council further submitted that there are about 6,000 crore jewellery pieces that need to be hallmarked before June 1, and any breach on this would lead to levy of penalty and imprisonment of one year, it said. It is not possible for all jewellery pieces to be hallmarked before the law comes into force, it said.
Moreover, the restriction on people travelling from one district to another in most States due to rising Covid cases, has made it impossible for jewellers without hallmarking centres in their own district to comply with the law, said the council.
In 2019, the government announced that mandatory hallmarking would come into force from January 15, 2021, but was postponed to June due to the pandemic.
Ashish Pethe, Chairman, All India Gem and Jewellery Domestic Council, said the court has seen the hardship of 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 per cent of the 733 districts in the country – and that there are at least 488 districts in the country without any hallmarking centres, he said.