The Bombay High Court last week directed the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs to respond to a petition filed by an organisation of jewellers from Pune challenging an order dated January 15, which directed compulsory hallmarking, and prohibited selling and stamping of higher purity (more than 22 carat) hallmarking of gold ornaments.
Instead of 10 grades earlier, hallmarked gold jewellery will be available in three grades of 14 carat, 18 carat and 22 carat only. The association claimed that the order was against Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution, which guarantees right to practice any profession, trade or business.
A division bench of Justice Suresh C Gupte and Justice Madhav J Jamdar, on November 5, heard a plea filed by Pune Saraf Association through senior advocate Anil V Anturkar and advocate Shubham H Misar seeking to set aside and quash the January 15 order.
The association sought relief, such as stay on notification pending hearing, stating that traders involved in gold business will be “tremendously affected” by the order causing losses as they are prohibited from selling gold with “high purity”.
According to the notification, jewellers can sell only hallmarked jewellery and artifacts made of 14, 18 and 22 carat gold from June 2021 and violations will attract penalty and imprisonment of one year.
Jewellers got a year’s time to register with Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and implement mandatory hallmarking of gold jewellery to ensure purity of the precious metal. However, the time was extended to June 2021 in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Gold hallmarking is a purity certification and is voluntary in nature at present. The BIS is already running a hallmarking scheme for gold jewellery since April 2000 and around 40 per cent gold jewellery is being hallmarked at present.
The jewellers’ association also argued that vedhanis (gold rings), purchased by a large section of buyers in Maharashtra, have purity between 23.5 and 24 carat, and that it is the source of acquisition of gold for people belonging to all economic classes. They said it cannot be as per the decision.
It further said the order prevented the sale of 24-carat traditional jewellery and, therefore, “cultural heritage” of the state will be “wiped out” due to the legislation.
The association also sought permission to sell and get hallmark stamps for ornaments with “high purity” of 22 carats and above, and also those with lower purity of 20 and 21 carat.
After hearing submissions, advocates Aditya Thakkar and Arsh Mishra, representing the consumer affairs ministry and BIS, respectively, sought time to take instructions to respond to the plea, which the court granted. The court issued notices and seeking the ministry’s reply by December 7, posted further hearing on December 15.