Understanding Legal Metrology Act, 2009 & Packaging & Labelling Laws in India
Objectives of the Act
The Legal Metrology Act, 2009 came into force on March 01, 2011 and the main objectives of the Act are to:
- Establish and enforce standards of weights and measures
- Regulate trade and commerce in weights, measures and other goods which are sold or distributed by weight, measure or number
Standardisation of Weights and Measures:
The first part of the Legal Metrology Act, 2009 lays down the guidelines for standardization of weights and measures. The main objective being to ensure that the weights and measures manufactured, sold in the market to the consumers, used to weigh or measure products / commodities are of the prescribed standard.
Before adverting further, it is imperative to understand the following major definitions as explained in the act.
In relation to any weight or measure, means a person who—
- manufactures weight or measure,
- manufactures one or more parts, and acquires other parts, of such weight or measure and, after assembling those parts, claims the end product to be a weight or measure manufactured by himself or itself, as the case may be,
- does not manufacture any part of such weight or measure but assembles parts thereof manufactured by others and claims the end product to be a weight or measure manufactured by himself or itself, as the case may be,
- puts, or causes to be put, his own mark on any complete weight or measure made or manufactured by any other person and claims such product to be a weight or measure made or manufactured by himself or itself, as the case may be.
Means a person who repairs a weight or measure and includes a person who adjusts, cleans, lubricates or paints any weight or measure or renders any other service to such weight or measure to ensure that such weight or measure conforms to the standards established by or under this Act;
With its grammatical variations and cognate expressions, means transfer of property in any weight, measure or other goods by one person to another for cash or for deferred payment or for any other valuable consideration and includes a transfer of any weight, measure or other goods on the 5 hire-purchase system or any other system of payment by installments, but does not include a mortgage or hypothecation of, or a charge or pledge on, such weight, measure or other goods;
- Weight or Measure:
Means a weight or measure specified by or under this Act and includes a weighing or measuring instrument.
Means a mark, made by impressing, casting, engraving, etching, branding, affixing pre-stressed paper seal or any other process in relation to, any weight or measure with a view to— (i) certifying that such weight or measure conforms to the standard specified by or under this Act, or (ii) indicating that any mark which was previously made thereon certifying that such weight or measure conforms to the standards specified by or under this Act, has been obliterated;
As per the Act, the weights and measures shall have the following units:
- length shall be the metre;
- mass shall be the kilogram;
- time shall be the second;
- electric current shall be the ampere;
- thermodynamic temperature shall be the kelvin;
- luminous intensity shall be the candela; and
- amount of substance shall be the mole
Any weight or measure which conforms to the standard unit of such weight or measure and also conforms to standard unit of weights and measures is applicable to:
- numeral which conforms to the units of weights and measures
- No weight, measure or numeral, other than the standard weight, measure or numeral, shall be used as a standard weight, measure or numeral.
- No weight or measure, shall be manufactured or imported unless it conforms to the standards of weight or measure specified under section
However, the above provision does not apply for any manufacturing done exclusively for export or for the purpose of any scientific investigation or research.
Inspection and Seizure:
The Legal Metrology Act, 2009 as we have understood till now aims to set and prescribes a few basic standards and in order to ensure these standards are followed by the manufacturers and / or anyone involved with the weights and measure, the Act gives power to the Director, Controller or any legal metrology officer to:
(a) enter at any reasonable time into any such premises and search for and inspect any weight, measure or other goods in relation to which trade and commerce has taken place, or is intended to take place and any record, register or other document relating thereto;
(b) Seize any weight, measure or other goods and any record, register or other document or article which he has reason to believe may furnish evidence indicating that an offence punishable under the Act has been, or is likely to be, committed in the course of, or in relation to, any trade and commerce.
Responsibilities of a manufacturer, repair or dealer of a weight or measure:
The responsibilities of a manufacturer, repair or dealer as laid down under the Act are as follows:
- Maintenance of registers
- Register as an Importer if the weights or measures are being brought to India
- Ensure that all weights or measures even if imported conform to the standards of weights or measures.
- Obtaining the relevant licenses as prescribed under the Act.
- Ensure the weights and measures are verified timely from the government approved test centres.
Standardisation of Packaging & Labeling
While the first objective of the act gives an insight about the standardisation of weights and measures, the second objective of the Act is to standardise the packaging and labeling requirements on all “pre-packaged” commodities.
One of the major concepts required to be understood prior to understanding the declarations required to be mention is the definition and the meaning of a ‘pre-packaged’ commodity.
A ‘pre-packaged’ commodity means a commodity which without the purchaser being present is placed in a package of whatever nature, whether sealed or not, so that the product contained therein has a pre-determined quantity.
What qualifies as a pre-packaged commodity?
Well, the above question as to whether a particular commodity qualifies as a pre‐packaged commodity or not has been discussed by various Courts including the Supreme Court.
The Madras High Court in Phillips India Ltd. v. Union of India while discussing whether televisions, video and audio players or speakers can be classified as a ‘packaged commodity’ had observed that such products would not fall within the definition of pre‐packaged commodity as the products were packed only for the convenience of the consumers for safe transportation and for protection during storage and handling.
The Andhra Pradesh High Court in Eureka Forbes Ltd. v. Union of India had observed that a product cannot be deemed to be a packaged good and put within the purview of the Standards of Weights and Measures Act, 1976 simply by virtue of the fact that the manufacturer or seller prints certain data on the product or places them in a box for the purpose of storage and transportation.
The Bombay High Court in Titan Industries Ltd. v. Union of India and Ors. laid a twin test to determine whether a package is pre‐packed. The Bombay High Court had observed that:
“The test would be firstly whether by the very nature of the commodity it requires to be packed before it can be sold. Secondly, in the event a package is opened does it undergo any perceptible change or reduction in value? If these twin tests are met, then only can it be said that the package contains a pre‐packed commodity. Merely because the commodity is packed for protection during conveyance or otherwise or in the fancy package, would not result in the package becoming a pre‐packed commodity. The Rule, therefore, along with the explanation aims to include only those Pre‐packed commodities which by the very nature are required to be packed before they are sold.”
The Bombay High Court further observed that watches are removed from their package and displayed so that the customers can see them and try them and they do not lose any value because the package is opened. The Bombay High Court, therefore, found that watches cannot be considered a pre‐packaged commodity and as a result, the provisions of the Standards of Weights and Measures Act, 1976 will not apply on them.
However, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Whirlpool of India Ltd. v. Union of India held that refrigerator is covered under the term pre‐packed commodity. It was observed that:
“Even if the package of the refrigerator is required to be opened for testing, even then the refrigerator would continue to be a “pre‐packed commodity”. There are various types of packages defined under the Rules and ultimately Rule 3 specifically suggests that the provisions of Chapter II would apply to the packages intended for “retail sale” and the expression “package” would be construed accordingly”. The Supreme Court, therefore, found that refrigerators, were a pre-packaged commodity and it did not matter if a refrigerator’s packaging is opened for display and testing. The refrigerator would continue to be a pre-packaged commodity and the provisions of the Standards of Weights and Measures Act, 1976 would be applicable.
The Kerala High Court also ruled on the lines of the judgment of the Supreme Court in Whirlpool as in Union of India v. Godrej‐GE Appliances Ltd., the Kerala High Court in para 19 observed that:
“Interpretation of the provisions of the aforesaid Acts and Rules is to be made from the point of view of the consumer and keeping in mind the object sought to be achieved by the enactment of the Acts and the framing of the Rules under the Standards Act. Viewed in that angle, it is abundantly clear that the intention of the manufacturer packer or retailer is hardly relevant in construing the various provisions of the Acts and Rules”. This interpretation of the Kerala High Court, therefore, is that the definition of pre‐packaged commodities includes commodities that are packaged only for the purpose of storage and transportation too.
In view of the above numerous judgements and views of the various High Courts and the Hon’ble Supreme Court, it can be interpreted and / or concluded that a pre-packaged commodity is any commodity which is packed and/ or covered merely for advertisement and / or transportation purpose.
Declarations on Pre-packaged Commodities
The declarations required to be mentioned on such pre-packaged commodities are mentioned in the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011.
Rule 6 of the Packaged Commodities Rules, 2011 enumerates the various declarations that are to be displayed on a pre-packaged commodity. To know more about the various declarations to be made on pre-packaged commodity click here.
It would be relevant to mention here that if any pre-packaged commodity is manufactured or sold without the statutory declarations, then the same may invite penalties under the relevant legal provisions. To know more about the various penalties imposed due to contravention of statutory provisions under the Legal Metrology Act, 2009 and Packaged Commodities Rules, 2011, click here.
To know more about the subject matter in India, click on the link below:
 [(2002) 1 Mad L.W (Cri.) 211]
 [AIR 2003 AP 275]
 [AIR 2006 Bom 336]
 [(2007) 14 SCC 468],
 [2009 (235) ELT 435 (Ker.)]
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