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Government decriminalises key Acts applicable to retail businesses via Jan Vishwas Bill 2022

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Shiv Joshi
Shiv Joshi
An editor with over 20 years of experience across industry verticals and content formats from tabloids to magazines, he is the Deputy Group Managing Editor at Images Group.

Decriminalisation of the Legal Metrology Act and Food Safety Act, which are applicable to retail businesses on a day-to-day basis, will greatly reduce the impediments to operating a retail business in India

New Delhi: Retail businesses across the country can breathe a collective sigh of relief as the recently-introduced Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Bill 2022 decriminalises certain Acts like the Legal Metrology Act and Food Safety Act. In addition, the Bill rationalises minor offences related these Acts. (Refer page 105 of the Bill.)

“Decriminalisation of large number of minor offences by replacing them with monetary penalties have been identified. The endeavour is not only to make lives and businesses easier but also to reduce judicial burden,” said Shri Piyush Goyal, Honourable Minister of Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs & Food & Public Distribution and Textiles in The Statement of Objects and Reasons.

“Settlement of large number of issues, by compounding method, adjudication and administrative mechanism, without involving courts, will enable persons to remedy minor contraventions and defaults, sometimes committed unknowingly by them, and save time, energy and resources,” he further stated.

Decriminisation of archaic Acts and Rules applicable to retail businesses such as the Legal Metrology Act and Food Safety Act has been a long-standing demand of retailers in India. Non-compliance of even minor provisions in the Acts led to criminal prosecution of directors or owners. The Rules were a hindrance to ease of doing business and often impractical considering the changed nature of modern retail businesses.

“The reforms introduced are conducive to ease of doing business and show the progressive understanding by the Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India,” said Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO of Retailers Association of India that has been championing the cause for a long time.

“One of the objectives of the Jan Vishwas Bill is about trusting the people and institutions of the country and redefining the regulatory landscape.  The bill proposed to decriminalise around 42 Acts and 183 provisions,” explained G R Srikkanth, Senior Vice President – Legal, Spencer’s Retail Ltd. and Chairman of RAI’s Advocacy Committee.

“The Acts include Food Safety and Standards Acts 2006 where currently commencing business without a license and manufacture and sale of unsafe food without any injury and furnishing false information is punishable with imprisonment. Now, these offences will attract only penalty,” Srikkanth added.

Similarly, in Legal Metrology, the offences that led to imprisonment included the manufacture and use of nonstandard weight or measure and for quoting or publishing, of non-standard units. Sale or delivery of commodities by non-standard weight or measure too were liable to imprisonment. “Now, these are compounded by way of penalty. These will certainly ease the retailers and boost their confidence,” added the legal expert.

In a bid to enhance trust-based governance and ease of doing business the government has been steadily reviewing outdated regulations. In October this year, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs amended the Legal Metrology (General) Rules, 2011 allowing officers other than directors to be nominated as persons responsible for the business of the company. Read more about it here.

“Companies are operating across geographical areas and it is humanly impossible for the directors to personally oversee the compliance under the Act at each unit level. It is therefore appropriate to nominate a person in charge of the unit as responsible so that he can exercise diligence and address any noncompliance. Similar provisions exist under Food Safety and Standards Act 2006,” G R Srikkanth had said in an earlier article.

Touted by RAI as the “landmark reform for the operation of retail businesses in India” the recent Jan Vishwas Bill has made both the Legal Metrology Act and the Food Safety and Standards Act more relevant to today’s retail businesses.

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