Measures

   

“Metrology” means the science of measurement and the “law of metrology” sets out the rules and regulations which govern the units, methods of weighment and measurement. In India, the law of measurement is set out under the Legal Metrology Act, 20091 (LMA/the Act) which also provides for a regulatory department under the Department of Consumer Affairs which deals with the rules relating to the units of weights and measurements that are utilised in commercial and trading activities such as sale or purchase of goods which are traded by the virtue of their weight, measure, or number. The Act was preceded by the Standards of Weights and Measures Act, 19762 and the Standards of Weights and Measures (Enforcement) Act, 19853.

It lays down the rules, regulations, requirements, and procedures required to be followed in order to ensure that the consumer buying any goods regulated by the Act is provided with symbols of measurements which are accurate, standard, and unambiguous along with being in compliance with the international system of units.4

All pre-packaged commodities need declaration5 under Rule 6 of the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 wherein every package shall bear a label which should make a declaration of the net quantity of the commodity in terms of the standard unit of weight and measurement. The said declaration should be definite, plain, conspicuous and in accordance with the provisions of the aforesaid rules. In case where the commodity is sold by number, the number of the commodity contained in the package should be mentioned. In the absence of these, no person i.e. manufacturers/packer/seller/importer/distributor/dealer should sell any such pre-packaged commodity, as it will be considered an offence under Chapter V of the Act.

The standard units of weight, measure and numeration are provided under Section 76 of the Act which states that the standard unit of weights and measures would be the base unit as specified in Section 57, and the standard unit for numeration would be the base unit as specified in Section 68. Section 5 of the Act provides the base unit of weights and measures as (i) length shall be the meter; (ii) mass shall be the kilogram; (iii) time shall be the second; (iv) electric current shall be the ampere; (v) thermodynamic temperature shall be the kelvin; (vi) luminous intensity shall be the candela; and (vii) amount of substance shall be the mole.

The Act is applicable to documentations pertaining to transactions/industrial production which include contracts for sale and purchase, royalties, toll, duty, assessment of work done, wages due and services rendered. In accordance with Sections 109 and 1110 of the Act, the provisions would apply to all transaction, dealing, contracts, price list, invoice, cash memo, advertisement, poster, or any other document. Thereby every such document where the weight and measure are specified should be done in accordance with the Act.11 Moreover, it is clear from Section 11 of the Act that it applies to all organisations whose operations are in any way related to standard weights and measures. 

Further, Section 11 of the Act prohibits quotation, announcement, issuance, publication, indication in a manner otherwise than in terms of standard units of weight, measure or numeration stipulated under the Act. The said provision provides that no person in relation to goods, things or service shall quote or announce (by word of mouth or otherwise) any price or charge; issue or exhibit any price list, invoice, cash memo; prepare or publish any advertisement, poster; indicate the net quantity of a pre-packed commodity; express in relation to any transaction or protection, any quantity or dimension in any manner which is in deviation with the standard units of weight, measure or numeration stipulated under the Act.

The standard unit of weight is kilogram (kg), and length is meter (m) or centimeter (cm) and any deviation from the same is prohibited under Section 11. Thus, it is clear from the aforesaid provisions that the standard units of weights and measures would be the base units of weights and measures specified in Section 5 and any violation from the standard units would be penalised in terms of the provisions of the Act.

The Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011, particularly Rule 1312 provides for smaller units of measurement wherein the unit of weight shall be “gram” and unit of length shall be “centimeter”. Therefore, it is clear that in terms of the LMA and Packaged Commodity Rules, standard unit of weights and measures are kilogram, gram, meter, centimeter. It is pertinent to point out Section 4 which provides that every unit of weight or measure shall be in accordance with the metric system based on the international system of units.

Quantity

Unit Name

Symbol

Length

meter

m

Mass

kilogram

kg

Time

second

S

Electric Current

ampere

A

Thermodynamic Temperature

kelvin

K

Amount of Substance

mole

mol

Luminous Intensity

candela

cd

Rule 13(5)(i) of the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 make it sufficiently clear that only SI system of units shall be used in furnishing the quantity of the packages. It is stated that special attention needs to be given while mentioning symbols of the measurement units declared on the packing of the commodity. Rule 7 provides for guidelines for printing the symbols which are provided below:

(a) shall be printed in roman (upright) type irrespective of the type used in the rest of the text;

(b) shall remain unaltered in the plural;

(c) shall be written, without a final full stop(period) unless the context otherwise requires;

(d) shall be placed after the complete numerical value in the expression for a quantity, leaving a space between the numerical value and the unit; and

(e) the symbol for units of weight or measure shall be printed in lower case letters except that the first letter shall be printed in upper case when the name of the unit is derived from a proper name.

In view of the aforesaid, it may be noted that symbols of units shall remain altered in plural i.e. kilograms should be written as kg and not kgs. Similarly, centimeters should be written as cm and not cms. It further provides that it should be written without a full stop. Lastly it clarifies that symbol for units of weight or measure should be printed in lower case letters.

In light of frequent violations under the LMA by various business owners/traders/dealers with respect to the declaration of quantities and incorrect representation of the measurement units/symbols, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution vide Notification dated 30-4-2020 issued to all the Controllers of Legal Metrology of all States/UTs made a “Declaration of Symbol of Units” wherein it was stated that a reference has been received regarding declaration of symbol of units in under the Legal Metrology Rules, 2011. It thereby directed all field officers not to take any coercive action for declaration of units in small or capital letters, in full or short form, provided that the units are declared in SI system. In view of the aforediscussed provisions, rules, and regulations, it is clear that while it is mandatory to use the SI systems of unit and to use the symbols of such units in strict manner, however with the 30-4-2020 advisory, no coercive action can be taken by the Legal Metrology Department for using full form, capital letters in the units, etc.

In Cadbury India Ltd. v. Controller of Legal Metrology13 it was held by the Karnataka High Court that the use of “angula” for the advertisement of 5 Star chocolate even though was non-metric, would not be in violation of Section 11(1)(c) of the Legal Metrology Act as the commercial has a humorous tone and was not meant to mislead the viewer. The mention of this case was important as it is important to note that a lot of the offences mentioned in the act are unlikely to have mens rea, an element of criminality and will not affect the interests of the public at large.

In Sobha Developers Ltd. v. Inspector of Legal Metrology14 the issue was in regard to what would be considered as “goods” since the commodity in question was immovable, an apartment in advertisement. The measuring unit used was square feet instead of the standard square meter and hence it was not in accordance with the metric system. The advertisement in the newspaper was said to be in violation of Section 4815 of the Act. The case went on to Karnataka High Court by means of writ where the Court settled the issue by holding that the Act was applicable in the present situation as the petitioner was in the business of selling apartments by measurements.

Offences and penalties

While the Act provides in detail of all compliances and the manners in which declaration of measurements/weight of commodities is to be made however even small and insignificant deviation from the provisions of the Act amounts to offence under the Act and can attract penalties as are mentioned under Chapter V of the Act. Section 11 of the Act prohibits declaring measurement units in any other manner from one stipulated under the Act. There is compounding of offences only if the offence is repeated within a period of three years. Corollary to that is any subsequent offence under Legal Metrology Act committed after a period of three years from the first offence would be treated as a fresh offence.

Section 4916 covers any offences that might be committed by a company. LMA lays down the need for nomination of directors to ensure that any breach of the provisions of the Act by the company can be taken up with the nominated Director of the company and such nomination continues until the Director either ceases to be a director or there is cancellation of the nomination by the company or the nominee himself. The penalty for a company who is in breach of the provisions of this Act is to publish an advertising such lapse at its own expense or as the court may direct.

Further, under Section 5117, the provisions of the Penal Code18 and Section 15319 of the Code of Criminal Procedure insofar as such provisions relate to offences with regard to weight or measure, shall not apply to any offence which is punishable under this Act.

It is pertinent to note that under Section 5020 of the Act any/all decisions or orders given by an officer of Legal Metrology are appealable to the Director of Metrology and from there to the Central Government. The time period for making such an appeal is sixty (60) days further extendable for a period of sixty (60) days by the appellate authority from the day of passing such order.

Exceptions on applicability

Certain goods which are not defined expressly under the Act would include “any goods” (movable/immovable) which requires any sort of measurement/weighing which includes even pre-packaged commodities.21

However, there are certain restrictions and limitations on the applicability of the Act. In terms of Section 5522 of the Act, it is specifically provided that the provisions pertaining to verification and stamping of weights and measures are not applicable in factories engaged in manufacture of arms and ammunitions, weights and measures used for scientific investigation or research and goods manufactured exclusively for export purposes.

Moreover, in Philips Electronics India Ltd. v. Govt. of A.P.23 the Madras High Court held that audiovisual equipment, television sets and electronic items would not come in the purview of the Act. Electronic items according to the Court are related to the field of science and therefore the Act of 2009 is not applicable to packages which are used to package electronics as it is for the customer's convenience.

Further the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011, do not apply on large consignments as provided under Rule 3, which stipulates that the rules would not apply on packages of commodities containing quantity of more than 25 kg or 25 litre and packaged commodities meant for industrial consumers or institutional consumers. However, cement and fertilizer industries are not covered under this provision and the Legal Metrology Rules are applicable on the same.

Conclusion

The objective of the Legal Metrology Act is to rationalise the metric system so as to have a uniform system which is unambiguous and therefore aids the consumer in understanding the measurements/quantity of the goods being bought/sold in transactions. Therefore, it is pertinent for business owners to ensure that (i) the declaration of weight and quantity of the product should be clear on the packaging and in compliance with the Act and Rules; (ii) every package should bear a label containing declaration of net quantity in terms of standard unit of weight or measure of commodity or number of commodity in package; (iii) the units should be SI units and the symbols for such units should be standard unit of weights and measures; and lastly (iv) it should be in small letters and not in plural.


† Partner at DSK Legal.

†† Principal Associate at DSK Legal.

1. Legal Metrology Act, 2009.

2. Standards of Weights and Measures Act, 1976.

3. Standards of Weights and Measures (Enforcement) Act, 1985.

4. Legal Metrology Act, 2009, S. 4. Units of weights and measures to be based on metric system. —Every unit of weight or measure shall be in accordance with the metric system based on the international system of units.

5. Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011, R. 6 stipulate that declaration needs to be made on every package as follows:

  1. retail sale price of the commodity;

  2. size of the product;

  3. weight of the product;

  4. the common/generic name of the goods;

  5. details of the manufacturer;

  6. customer care number; and

  7. date of manufacturing/pre-packaged/imported item.

Any additional declarations required in the view of the specific commodity in question.

6. Legal Metrology Act, 2009, S. 7.

7. Legal Metrology Act, 2009, S. 5.

8. Legal Metrology Act, 2009, S. 6.

9. Legal Metrology Act, 2009, S. 10.

10. Legal Metrology Act, 2009, S. 11.

11. S. 11. Prohibition of quotation, etc., otherwise than in terms of standard units of weight, measure or numeration. — (1) No person shall, in relation to any goods, things or service, —

(a) quote, or make announcement of, whether by word of mouth or otherwise, any price or charge; or

(b) issue or exhibit any price list, invoice, cash memo or other document; or

(c) prepare or publish any advertisement, poster or other document; or

(d) indicate the net quantity of a pre-packaged commodity; or

(e) * * *

12. Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011, R. 13.

13. 2013 SCC OnLine Kar 12.

14. 2019 SCC OnLine Kar 3559.

15. Legal Metrology Act, 2009, S. 48.

16. Legal Metrology Act, 2009, S. 49.

17. Legal Metrology Act, 2009, S. 51.

18. Penal Code, 1860.

19. Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, S. 153.

20. Legal Metrology Act, 2009, S. 50.

21. Legal Metrology Act, 2009, S. 2(l) “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.

22. Legal Metrology Act, 2009, S. 55.

23. 2012 SCC OnLine AP 341.

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