1. Heard Smt. G. Jyothi Kiran, learned Government Pleader (Civil Supplies) for appellants, Sri K. Lakshman, learned Assistant Solicitor General for Union of India and Sri A. Sudarshan Reddy, learned senior counsel for respondent.
2. The respondents in W.P. No. 18242 of 2018 are the appellants.
3. The instant appeal examines the nature, scope and object of Sections 18 and 52 of the Legal Metrology Act, 2009 and Rule 6 (2) of the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 (for short, 'the Act and the Rules' respectively).
4. The learned Single Judge, through the order dated 11.07.2018 in W.P. No. 18242 of 2018 under appeal, allowed the writ petition, set aside the order of 2nd appellant in Appeal No. 751/T/2018 dated 30.04.2018, held that the requirement under Rule 6(2) of the Rules is complied with; the seizure of Kinley Water Bottles through panchanama dated 24.04.2018 is illegal, and further directed release of the seized stock.
5. This Court, keeping in view the importance of the question for decision and also the implication in the working of the Act and the Rules, issued notice to Sri K. Lakshman, the Assistant Solicitor General of India, who has accepted notice on behalf of the Union of India and made submissions on the stand of the Union on the interpretation, scope and the extent of the operation provisions.
6. The circumstances leading to litigation are not in dispute and are stated thus. For convenience, the parties are referred to, as arrayed in the writ petition.
7. The petitioner prayed for Mandamus declaring the order dated 26.05.2018 passed by the Controller of Legal Metrology, Hyderabad, Telangana State/2nd respondent in Appeal No. 751/T/2018, confirming the seizure made by the 3rd respondent under panchanama dated 24.04.2018, as illegal, arbitrary and violative of Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India. The petitioner prays for a direction to release the stock seized under panchanama dated 24.04.2018.
8. The petitioner is a company incorporated under the Companies Act, 1956 and an authorized contract packer of M/s. Hindustan Coco-Cola Beverages Private Limited. The petitioner, among other activities, is into the business of packaged drinking water in the State of Telangana. The petitioner under authorization from the Coco-Cola Company, USA and its bottler M/s. Hindustan Coco-Cola Beverages Private Limited prepares packaged beverages in authorized containers under the trade mark of Coco-Cola Company and sells under Kinley(r) brand name. It is the case of writ petitioner that the packaged commodity/Water Bottle is governed by the Act and the Rules.
9. The petitioner asserts that it is fully compliant of the laws of the land and for the purpose of this writ petition, the petitioner asserts that the packaged commodity conforms in letter and spirit to the requirements of the Act and the Rules. Stated in other words, the petitioner's activity viz., manufacture, package, distribution of Water Bottles at Pashamylaram, Patancheru is fully compliant with the requirements of law.
10. On 24.04.2018 at 04.30 P.M, the officers of Legal Metrology Department/Respondents inspected the petitioner's plant at Pashamylaram, Patancheru Mandal, Medak District and have informed the petitioner that the officers have come to verify the compliance status of the Act and the Rules by the petitioner company. The 3rd respondent collected samples of one and two litre(s) Kinley Water Bottles. The 3rd respondent informed the alleged non-compliance of the requirement under Rule 6(2) of the Rules to the employees of petitioner company. The persuasion of employees of petitioner of due compliance of the requirement of Rule 6(2) of the Rules did not persuade the 3rd respondent. We prefer to advert to the alleged infraction complained against the petitioner and the requirement of Rule 6(2) of the Rules at appropriate stage of consideration in the order. The 3rd respondent under panchanama dated 24.04.2018 taking note of breach of Rule 6 (2) seized 21889 (Two litres) packages/bottles and 75926 (One litre) package/bottle. The seizure through panchanama dated 24.04.2018, it is urged, is contrary to the mandate of the Act and the Rules.
11. At the first instance, the petitioner filed W.P. No. 15467 of 2018 challenging the panchanama dated 24.04.2018 and on 27.04.2018, the writ petition was disposed of by giving liberty to petitioner to avail the remedy of appeal under the Act before 2nd respondent. The appeal was filed before 2nd respondent and taken on file in Appeal No. 751/T/2018. The Appeal was dismissed vide order dated 26.05.2018. Hence, the writ petition.
12. The petitioner contends that the impugned orders suffer from non-application of mind and ex facie contrary to the Act and the Rules. The seizure under panchanama dated 24.04.2018 is illegal and arbitrary. The petitioner contends that without disputing any of the details stated in the panchanama dated 24.04.2018, there is sufficient compliance of Rule 6(2) of the Rules and a consumer, if is aggrieved or has a complaint against the product, has sufficient details to lodge a complaint to petitioner company. Thus, there is sufficient compliance of Rule 6(2). The orders of appellate authority and the order of 3rd respondent are erroneous and unsustainable, for they are contrary to Rule 6(2). Rule 6 (2) gives an option to manufacturer to disclose name, address, telephone number of the person or the office which can be contacted in case of consumer complaints and the declaration already made on the packaged/water bottle is compliant of the applicable Rule. Therefore, the petitioner prayed for setting aside the orders impugned in the writ petition.
13. The 3rd respondent filed counter affidavit and admits inspection of petitioner company on 24.04.2018 and recorded the following declaration on the packaged/water bottle attracting alleged omission under Rule 6(2) of the Rules:
14. The declaration furnished by petitioner is as follows:
15. According to respondents, the petitioner has not declared the name, address, telephone number, E-mail address of the person who can be or the office which can be contacted in case of complaint as required under Rule 6(2) of the Rules. Therefore, the seized property suffers from defective declaration of details and cannot be sold in market against the Rules. The seized water bottles are non-standard packages. Possessing non-standard packages by petitioner is an offence. The 3rd respondent registered a case against petitioner for violation of Sections 18 and 36 of the Act and the Rules. According to respondents, under Section 18 of the Act, "no person shall manufacture, pack, sell etc., unless such package is in such standard quantity and bears such declaration as are prescribed". Under Section 36 and Rule 4, a person affixes a label securely with such declaration as is required to be pre-packed etc. Rule 6(2) of the Rules mandates that every package shall bear the name, address, telephone number, E-mail address of the person who can be or the office which can be contacted in case of complaints.
16. It is further submitted that the petitioner herein is one of the manufacturers of packaged/water bottles on behalf of Coco-Cola which has so many units manufacturing pan India. According to 3rd respondent, the toll free number or E-mail address given on the package does not pertain to petitioner company. The disclosed details of toll free number/E-mail address are not sufficient compliance of Rule 6(2) of the Rules. According to 3rd respondent, the manufacturing address and address of toll free number, if is one and the same, the petitioner has to indicate to the same effect on the packages. The petitioner, as is evident from the declaration noted in panchanama, failed in furnishing declaration under Rule 6(2). The consumer helpline does not belong to petitioner company and the consumer helpline, appears to be a general number of control unit of Coco-Cola company and declared as a detail for all the manufacturing units of Coco-Cola. Such insufficient declarations by manufacturer of packaged commodity result in hardship to end users. Therefore, according to 3rd respondent, the seizure of goods under panchanama is legal and the seized stock contravenes Rule 6(2) of the Rules. According to respondents, mere providing toll free number and E-mail address for consumer helpline does not satisfy the requirement of Rule 6(2) of the Rules. The omission in declaring the name of person and officer who could be contacted in the event of a complaint, is an offence under Rule 32 (A) read with Section 36(1). According to respondents, the purpose or object of amendment of Rule 6(2) through GSR No. 385(E) dated 14.05.2015 is to provide on the packaged bottle the name of person or office address and other details to facilitate consumers for immediate redressal of their complaints or grievances. The admitted details satisfy old provision i.e., unamended Rule and not the mandate of amended Rule 6(2) of the Rules. According to respondents, the petitioner did not provide independent address for consumer redressal, as no consumer care address is provided, or atleast declared that the details provided are intended to cover Rule 6 (2) as well. The seizure, according to respondents, is in accordance with law of inspection/seizure and no exception could be pointed out. Therefore, according to respondents, the orders impugned in the writ petition are valid, made in public interest and for ensuring due compliance with the provisions of the Act and the Rules. The respondents prayed for dismissing the writ petition.
17. The learned Single Judge framed the following point for decision:
"whether the order passed by 2nd respondent on 26.05.2018 dismissing petitioner's Appeal No. 751/T/2018 confirming the action of seizure of products by 3rd respondent under panchanama dated 24.04.2018 warrants any interference by this Court in exercise of its power under Article 226 of the Constitution of India
18. The summary of consideration or conclusions recorded by the order under appeal is that in the case on hand, the details as recorded in the panchanama satisfy the declaration mandated by Rule 6(2) of the Rules. Rule 6(2) gives option to mention the name of a person who can be or the office which can be contacted in case of consumer complaints. In the case on hand, the declaration on details of manufacturer etc., are provided and these details would suffice the requirement of Rule 6(2). Once the address is available, it is concluded by the order under appeal that it pre-supposes that that address is also the office of manufacturer for further redressal. Therefore, it is not necessary for petitioner to indicate/mention on packages that the address already mentioned (manufacturing address) is also the address for consumer complaints. The learned Judge also records that "may be it would have been better if the petitioner had also mentioned on the package that its address is also the address where the consumer complaints can be lodged. But the absence of such endorsement on the package cannot be said to disable a consumer in any way to sue the petitioner in the event of a grievance or a complaint". Hence, it is held that the details disclosed are conforming to the requirements of Rule 6 sub-rules (1) & (2). The above conclusion is founded on purposive interpretation of Rule 6 and thereafter it is held that the seizure under panchanama dated 24.04.2018 is unsustainable and illegal. Hence, the appeal at the instance of respondents/Department.
19. Smt. Jyothi Kiran contends that the order under appeal is unsustainable inasmuch as through the order impugned and through judicial interpretation of a provision of law, a requirement, otherwise mandatory in law, is substantially rendered directory through purposive interpretation. According to her, the order impugned suffers from contradictions in findings, because the learned Single Judge having accepted that the petitioner would have done better if the name of person/official address for consumer complaints is provided on the package/bottle ought not to have held the declaration on packaged commodity is sufficient compliance of Rule 6(2). She draws the attention of the Court to the unamended and amended Rule 6(2) and contends that the rule making authority both from experience and also to achieve efficacy to the objects of the Act deleted the words "if available" from Rule 6(2). The deletion of the words 'if available" by way of amendment ought to be kept in mind while interpreting the amended Rule. According to her, the Court examines the legislative history and the improvement introduced to the language in a Section or Rule while interpreting the section or the statute. The interpretation now adopted by the learned Single Judge, according to respondents, re-introduces the element of discretion or option in furnishing the declaration by the manufacturer, packer etc., under the Act. According to her, the statement of objects and reasons together with the long title and the Act make it clear that the Parliament has made the Act with a view to regulating weight, measure, unit standards of weights, measures on packaged goods etc., and the Act is intended for public interest or good and protection of rights of consumers. She refers to Sections 18 and 52 of the Act and also Rule 6(2) of the Rules and submits that in consumer interest the manufacturer, packer etc., of pre-packaged commodity must satisfy the requirement of declarations on such prepackaged commodity as prescribed in the Rules. Rule 6(2) makes it mandatory for the manufacturer to disclose the name, address, telephone number, E-mail address of the person who can be or the office which can be contacted in case of consumer complaints. According to her, every package shall bear the name, address, telephone number, E-mail address of the person who can be or office which can be contacted in case of consumer complaints. Juxtaposing the said requirement with the details recorded in panchanama, she contends that the petitioner has not furnished the details of person-in-charge or office address for consumer complaint. As already noted, we prefer to excerpt again the details on label of the seized stock:
20. According to her, the details given admittedly on the seized stock refer to manufacture etc., but cannot be equated to satisfying the requirement of Rule 6(2), which provides avenue to consumer in the event of a complaint against packaged commodity. The intention of the petitioner, if is that the details already given are also the details for Rule 6(2), the same could have been separately declared by grouping all of them together. According to her, the interpretation of Rule 6 in the order under appeal, if is allowed to remain in force, the department could not discharge the functions and duties assigned to it in protecting the consumer interest. She relies on the following decisions:
1) COMMISSIONER OF CENTRAL EXCISE, VADODARA v. INDIAN PETROCHEMICALS CORPORATION : (2015) 15 SCC 783
2) M.NIZAMUDEEN v. CHEMPLAST SANMAR LIMITED AND OTHERS : (2010) 4 SCC 240
3) AJITSINH ARJUNSINH GOHIL v. BAR COUNSEL OF GUJARAT AND ANOTHER: (2017) 5 SCC 465
4) RAM DEEN MAURYA (DR). V STATE OF UP AND OTHERS : (2009) 6 SCC 735
5) STATE (NCT OF DELHI) v. SAJNAY : (2014) 9 SCC 772
21. Mr. Lakshman contends that the Act prescribes standard weights and measures for packaged commodities for manufacture and sale in the country. The declarations from their very nature are intended for public good and avoid exploitation of consumer by the manufacturer or packer of a pre-packaged commodity. He contends that Section 18 mandates that declarations as prescribed are made on a prepackaged commodity. The Central Government in exercise of power under Section 52 of the Act, made the Rules. This Court ought to have literally interpreted the words "used by the Legislature and the rule making authority" instead of searching for the purpose or intent of the Parliament or Central Government particularly when the language of Rule 6(2) is clear or unambiguous. According to him, the meaning of the words employed in the section or rule if are given the literal meaning, it would appreciate purpose and consequence of breach of the requirement. According to him, under the scheme of the Act/Rules, there is definite purpose for each one of the statutory requirements. The Act regulates and also provides for penal consequences in case of breach and, therefore, the declaration under Rule 6(2) is mandatory in nature. He substantially supports the department and contends that the learned Single Judge ought not to have given purposive interpretation, but applied the cardinal rule viz., the literal construction. According to him, by amendment to Rule 6(2), the syntax Rule 6(2) is polished and removed ambiguity or discretion vested in manufacturer packer etc., otherwise allowed by unamended Rule. According to him, at the hands of the Court the discretion given by unamended Rule ought not to be re-introduced. He submits that the details of declaration now furnished on the label of seized stock cannot be treated as satisfying the avenue provided for consumer complaint. He submits that the petitioner, if desired that the details of manufacturer and the details of person/office for redressal of complaint are one and the same, the same ought to have been grouped as facilitated by the Rules themselves. Then a different examination on the declaration - whether the declaration is true or false or general information is given etc., is examined by department on case to case basis. The toll free consumer helpline or E-mail ID now declared cannot be treated as complying with the requirement of furnishing the E-mail address of the person who can be or the office which can be contacted in case of consumer complaints. He prays for setting aside the order under appeal.
22. Mr. A. Sudarshan Reddy contends that the petitioner has complied with the requirement of Rule 6(2) of the Rules and the respondents are reading too much into Rule 6(2). He relies on the reply dated 25.04.2018 issued by petitioner to 3rd respondent which reads as follows:
"We once again reiterate that there is no violation of Rule 6(2) of the packaged Commodities Rules, 2011 and we have complied with the same by giving full particulars of the office and have printed on the labels the following declaration.
"MFD BY HIMAJAL BEVERAGES PVT. LTD, PLOT No. 7, PHASE-III, IDA PASHAMYLARAM, PATANCHERU (M) SANGAREDDY, TELANGANA FOR AND ON BEHALF OF HINDUSTAN COCA-COLA BEVERAGES PVT., LTD., B-91, MAYAPURI INDUSTRIAL AREA, PHASE-I, NEW DELHI-110 064.
CONSUMER HELPLINE NUMBER 1800-208-2653 EMAIL: email@example.com
to contend that the declaration made is substantial compliance with Rule 6(2).
Rule 6(2) of the Packaged Commodities Rules, 2011 clearly provides whereby every package shall bear name, address, telephone number of the person who can be or the office which can be contacted in case of consumer complaints, accordingly we have complied with the same".
23. According to him, where the manufacturer and packer is one and the same, the Act provides for grouping all the details under one head or at one place. According to him, the department can initiate action, if the seized stock does not bear declarations, but not when declaration as noticed is made, in matter and purpose the declaration satisfies Rule 6(2). He submits that the construction placed by respondents is firstly pedantic and does not achieve the purpose or object of the Act/Rules, except burdening the manufacturer or packer. The petitioner since has reported compliance with the requirements of the Act and the Rules, he submits that the purposive interpretation placed on Rule 6(2) by the learned Single Judge is tenable. He reiterates the citations which were referred to and considered by the order under appeal, and prays for dismissing the appeal.
24. We have perused the record and noted the submissions of the learned counsel appearing for the parties and also Mr. K. Lakshman, Assistant Solicitor General.
25. The learned Single Judge set aside the order dated 30.04.2018 of 2nd respondent on the ground that the circumstances in the case on hand and the omissions pointed out by the respondents, by purposive interpretation of Rule 6(2) satisfy the legal requirement of declarations given by manufacturer, packer etc., the seizure ordered by respondents is therefore illegal and unsustainable. The argument of respondents on the other hand is that the application of purposive interpretation firstly is incorrect and secondly, while adopting purposive interpretation the very purpose of the Act and the Rules is firstly omitted from consideration and the conclusion in the order under appeal defeated the object of the Act and the Rules. According to respondents, the Act and the Rules regulate weights and measures, uniform standards of weights and measures remove the anomalies in the existing law and implement technological innovation etc. The other side of the legislation intends protection of public interest and also prevent unnecessary interference from Department. The respondents vehemently contended that the interpretation now accepted by the order under appeal, renders the declarations required under Rule 6(2) completely discretionary or optional to the manufacturer or packer of packaged commodity. The respondents contend that the Rule ought to have been interpreted by looking at the change i.e., amendment by deletion of words "if available" introduced through G.S.R. 385 (E) dated 14.05.2015 with effect from 01.01.2016. The centric argument of both sides is on the scope and object of amended Rule, therefore we will be, at appropriate stage, incorporating the amended and un-amended Rule to appreciate the pre and post amendment requirement of the Rule.
26. The improvement of language of a Section or a Rule is made by legislature or rule making authority to remove difficulties perceived or improve the expression to accomplish the purpose of legislature. One of such ways is amendment by addition of words or deletion of words. In this exercise the Legislature or rule making authority is guided by practical experience or wisdom gained in the implementation of the statute. In all expressions, brevity is, of course, the soul of wit, but economy should never be carried to such an extent as to sacrifice clarity. We quote - Hores "I laboured to be brief and become obscure". The amendment by deletion of words ought not to result in obscurity. Therefore, the Legislature and rule making authority take stock of working of an enactment and improve the expression for accomplishing the objects of enactment. The famous French Poet Boileau to achieve good results from a sentence advises thus:
"Polisez le sans Cescse, et le repolitssez;
Ajoutez quelquefois, et souvent effacez."
"Polish it without ceasing
and polish it again;
add occasionally, and more often rub out"
27. Such effort results in a simple and compact sentence.
28. In the instant case, the rule making authority had taken a cue from the above quote while amending Rule 6. The un-amended and amended Rules read thus:
29. It is evident that the amendment by deletion omitted the words "if available" in Rule 6(2).
30. The contest between parties is on application of purposive interpretation, on the one hand, and on the other cardinal rule of interpretation i.e., literal construction of Rule 6 of the Rules. The subtle distinction of these two interpretative tools is noted by Lord Ree in Jones v. Secretary of State 1972 (1) of England reports 145 and held that "in very many cases it cannot be said positively that one construction is right and the other wrong. Much may depend on ones approach. If more attention is paid to meticulous examination of the language used in the statute the result may be different from that Rule by paying more attention to the apparent object of the statute so as to adopt that meaning of the words under consideration which best accords with it.
31. In Macquarie Bank Limited v. Shilpi Cable Technologies Limited : (2018) 2 SCC 674, the Apex Court in paras 27 to 30, while dealing with literal and purposive interpretation held as follows:
27. Equally, Dr. Singhvi's argument that the Code leads to very drastic action being taken once an application for insolvency is filed and admitted and that, therefore, all conditions precedent must be strictly construed is also not in sync with the recent trend of authorities as has been noticed by a concurring judgment in Eera v. State (NCT of Delhi) decided on July 21-7- 2017. In this judgment, the correct interpretation of Section 2(1)(d) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 arose. After referring to the celebrated Heydon's case, and to the judgments in which the golden rule of interpretation of statutes was set out, the concurring judgment of R.F. Nariman, J., after an exhaustive survey of the relevant case law, came to the conclusion that the modern trend of case law is that creative interpretation is within the Lakshman Rekha of the Judiciary. Creative interpretation is when the Court looks at both the literal language as well as the purpose or object of the statute, in order to better determine what the words used by the draftsman of the legislation mean. The concurring judgment then concluded:
"127. It is thus clear on a reading of English, U.S., Australian and our own Supreme Court judgments that the 'Lakshman Rekha' has in fact been extended to move away from the strictly literal rule of interpretation back to the rule of the old English case of Heydon, where the Court must have recourse to the purpose, object, text, and context of a particular provision before arriving at a judicial result. In fact, the wheel has turned full circle. It started out by the rule as stated in 1584 in Heydon's case, which was then waylaid by the literal interpretation rule laid down by the Privy Council and the House of Lords in the mid 1800s, and has come back to restate the rule somewhat in terms of what was most felicitously put over 400 years ago in Heydon's case."
28. In dealing with penal statutes, the Court was confronted with a body of case law which stated that as penal consequences ensue, the provisions of such statutes should be strictly construed. Here again, the modern trend in construing penal statutes has moved away from a mechanical incantation of strict construction. Several judgments were referred to and it was held that a purposive interpretation of such statutes is not ruled out. Ultimately, it was held that a fair construction of penal statutes based on purposive as well as literal interpretation is the correct modern day approach.
29. However, Dr. Singhvi cited Raghunath Rai Bareja v. Punjab National Bank and relied upon paragraphs 39 to 47 for the proposition that the literal construction of a statute is the only mode of interpretation when the statute is clear and unambiguous. Paragraph 43 of the said judgment was relied upon strongly by the learned counsel, which states (SCC p. 244)
"43. In other words, once we depart from the literal rule, then any number of interpretations can be put to a statutory provision, each judge having a free play to put his own interpretation as he likes. This would be destructive of judicial discipline, and also the basic principle in a democracy that it is not for the Judge to legislate as that is the task of the elected representatives of the people. Even if the literal interpretation results in hardship or inconvenience, it has to be followed (see G.P. Singh's Principles of Statutory Interpretations, 9th Edn., pp. 45-49). Hence departure from the literal rule should only be done in very rare cases, and ordinarily there should be judicial restraint in this connection."
30. Regard being had to the modern trend of authorities referred to in the concurring judgment in Eera, we need not be afraid of each Judge having a free play to put forth his own interpretation as he likes. Any arbitrary interpretation, as opposed to fair interpretation, of a statute, keeping the object of the legislature in mind, would be outside the judicial ken. The task of a Judge, when he looks at the literal language of the statute as well as the object and purpose of the statute, is not to interpret the provision as he likes but is to interpret the provision keeping in mind Parliament's language and the object that Parliament had in mind. With this caveat, it is clear that judges are not knight-errants free to roam around in the interpretative world doing as each Judge likes. They are bound by the text of the statute, together with the context in which the statute is enacted; and both text and context are Parliaments', and not what the Judge thinks the statute has been enacted for. Also, it is clear that for the reasons stated by us above, a fair construction of Section 9(3)(c), in consonance with the object sought to be achieved by the Code, would lead to the conclusion that it cannot be construed as a threshold bar or a condition precedent as has been contended by Dr. Singhvi.
32. In Raghunath Rai Bereja v. Punjab National Bank: (2007) 2 SCC 230, the Apex Court held as follows:
"In other words, once we depart from the literal rule, then any number of interpretations can be put to a statutory provision, each Judge having a free play to put his own interpretation as he likes. This would be destructive of judicial discipline, and also the basic principle in a democracy that it is not for the Judge to legislate as that is the task of the elected representatives of the people. Even if the literal interpretation results in hardship or inconvenience, it has to be followed (see G.P. Singh's Principles of Statutory Interpretations, 9th Edn. pp 45-49). Hence departure from the literal rule should only be done in very rare cases, and ordinarily there should be judicial restraint in this connection"
33. The choice of tools of interpretation between purposive and literal construction must be made in a judicious way and as noted by Lord Cramberth that to adhere as closely as possible to literal meaning of the words used and from which if we depart, we launch into the sea of difficulties which is not easy to fathom. The applicability of decisions on whether Rule 6(2) is mandatory or discretionary in the case on hand arises upon consideration of the issue on hand from the perspective viz., whether the interpretation of Rule admits literal construction or should the Court resort to purposive interpretation and in the process appreciate legislative intent etc., on the language if is clear, the intention of legislature has to be gathered from the very language used in the statute and the purposive interpretation may not be available.
34. Let us now turn to Legal Metrology Act 2009. The Parliament enacted the Legal Metrology Act, 2009 by repealing the previous of enactments governing the field, namely the Standards of Weights and Measures (Enforcement) Act, 1985 and the Standards of Weights and Measures Act, 1976.
35. The judgment under appeal preferred purposive interpretation to Rule 6(2). Further Rule 6(2) has been exclusively considered without having regard to other applicable provisions under the Act and the Rules. There is no reference to the short and long title of the enactment; the statement of objects and reasons, functions and duties/powers; obligations on manufacturer, packer of packaged goods, the expectation of consumer on accuracy of details on declaration made on packaged commodity and in breach thereof, grievance redressal, opportunity, prosecution, etc. Therefore, before applying one or the other tools of interpretation, we refer to the history of subject legislation.
36. The introduction, statement of objects and reasons to the legal Metrology Act, 2009 reads thus:
In 1956 uniform standards of weights and measures based on metric systems were established, which were revised in 1976 with a view to give effect to the international system of units. Apart from it, the Standards of Weights and Measures Act, 1976 provides for the establishing Standards of Weights and Measures, regulation of inter-State trade or commerce in weights and measures and other goods which are sold by weight, measure or number. In 1985 the Standards of Weights and Measures (Enforcement) Act was enacted for the enforcement of standards of weights and measures. Due to technological advancements it has become necessary to review the enactments and to get rid of the anomalies as well as to keep the regulations pragmatic to the extent required for protecting the interest of consumers, the Legal Metrology Bill was introduced in the Parliament.
STATEMENT OF OBJECTS AND REASONS:
In India, uniform standards of weights and measures based on the metric system, were established in the year 1956, which were revised in the year 1976 with a view to give effect to the international system of units. Apart from it, the Standards of Weights and measures Act, 1976 provides for establishing Standards of Weights and Measures, regulation of Inter-State trade or commence in weights and measures and other goods which are sold by weight, measure or number. In the year 1985, the Standards of Weights and Measures (Enforcement) Act, 1985 was enacted for enforcement of standards of weights and measures established by or under the 1976 Act.
2. The advancement of technology has necessitated the review of above mentioned enactments to make them simple, eliminate obsolete regulations, ensure accountability and bring transparency.
3. It has become imperative to combine the provisions of the existing two Acts to get rid of anomalies and make the provisions simple. It has also become necessary to keep the regulation pragmatic to the extent required for protecting the interest of consumers and at the same time keep the industry free from undue interference. It has also become necessary to recognize certain "Government approved Test Centres" which will be empowered to verify prescribed weight or measure.
4. The Bill, inter alia, provides for.-
(a) regulation of weight or measure used in transaction or for protection;
(b) approval of model of weight or measure;
(c)verification of prescribed weight or measure by Government approved Test Centre;
(d) prescribing qualification of legal metrology officers appointed by the Central Government or State Government;
(e) exempting regulation of weight or measure or other goods meant for export;
(f) levy of fee for various services;
(g) nomination of a Director by a company who will be responsible for complying with the provisions of the enactment;
(h) penalty for offences and compounding of offences;
(i) appeal against decision of various authorities; and
(j) empowering the Central Government to make rules for enforcing the provisions of the enactment."
37. The Act is in force with effect from 01.04.2011. The Sections relied on by the counsel for both sides are Section 2 (f); (l) & (o), Sections 15, 16, 18, 52 sub section (2) clause (j) and Rule 6(1)(a) & 6 (2), which reads thus:
Section 2 (f):"label" means any written, marked, stamped, printed or graphic matter affixed to, or appearing upon any prepackaged commodity;
Section 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; Section 2 (o):"prescribed" means prescribed by rules made under this Act.
Section 15. Power of inspection, seizure, etc. -
(1) The Director, Controller or any legal metrology officer may, if he has any reason to believe, whether from any information given to him by any person and taken down in writing or from personal knowledge or otherwise, that any weight or measure or other goods in relation to which any trade and commerce has taken place or is intended to take place and in respect of which an offence punishable under this Act appears to have been, or is likely to be, committed are either kept or concealed in any premises or are in the course of transportation,-
(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 this Act has been, or is likely to be, committed in the course of, or in relation to, any trade and commerce.
(2) The Director, Controller or any legal metrology officer may also require the production of every document or other record relating to the weight or measure referred to in sub-section (1) and the person having the custody of such weight or measure shall comply with such requisition.
(3) Where any goods seized under sub-section (1) are subject to speedy or natural decay, the Director, Controller or legal metrology officer may dispose of such goods in such manner as may be prescribed.
(4) Every search or seizure made under this section shall be carried out in accordance with the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, relating to searches and seizures.
Section 16. Forfeiture. -
(1) Every non-standard or unverified weight or measure, and every package made in contravention of section 18, used in the course of, or in relation to, any trade and commerce and seized under section 15, shall be liable to be forfeited to the State Government:
Provided that such unverified weight or measure shall not be forfeited to the State Government if the person from whom such weight or measure was seized gets the same verified and stamped within such time as may be prescribed.
(2) Every weight, measure or other goods seized under section 15 but not forfeited under sub-section (1), shall be disposed of by such authority and in such manner as may be prescribed.
Section 18. Declarations on pre-packaged commodities:-
(1) No person shall manufacture, pack, sell, import, distribute, deliver, offer, expose or possess for sale any pre-packaged commodity unless such package is in such standard quantities or number and bears thereon such declarations and particulars in such manner as may be prescribed.
(2) Any advertisement mentioning the retail sale price of a prepackaged commodity shall contain a declaration as to the net quantity or number of the commodity contained in the package in such form and manner as may be prescribed.
Clause (j) of sub section (2) of Section 52:
(j) the standard quantities or number and the manner in which the packages shall bear the declarations and the particulars under sub-section (1) of section 18;
Rule 6 (1) (a):
Declarations to be made on every package -
(1) Every package shall bear thereon or on label securely affixed thereto, a definite, plain and conspicuous declaration made in accordance with the provisions of this chapter as, to -(a) the name and address of the manufacturer, or where the manufacturer is not the packer, the name and address of the manufacturer and packer and for any imported package the name and address of the importer shall be mentioned.
Rule 6 (2):
Every package shall bear the name, address, telephone number, E-mail address of the person who can be or the office which can be contacted, in a case of consumer complaints.
38. Sections 15 and 16 authorize the functionaries under the Act, to exercise power of inspection, seizure, forfeiture of pre-packaged commodity contravening the mandatory requirement of the law. Section 18 deals with the obligation of person who is defined by Section 2(m) of the Act to manufacture, sell etc., a pre-packaged commodity in accordance with the prescribed manner. Section 18 begins with the words "no person shall manufacture, pack, sell etc. for sale any prepackaged commodity unless such package is in such standard quantities or numbers and bears thereon such declarations and particulars in such manner as may be prescribed". Therefore, the section imposes a mandatory obligation on the person to print the declarations as prescribed by the Rules. Section 52(2) (j) authorizes the Central Government to make Rules for the standard quantities or number in the manner in which the packages shall bear the declarations and particulars under sub section (1) of Section 18. In exercise of rule making power under Section 52 (2) (j), the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 were made and notified under Section 52 (2) (j) and (o). Rule 6 sub rule (1) prescribes that every package shall bear thereon or on label securely affixed thereto a definite claim on conspicuous declaration made in accordance with the provisions of this chapter i.e., Chapter No. 2. Clause (a) of Rule 6 (1) deals with the name and address of the manufacturer or in case the manufacturer is not the packer, the name and address of the manufacturer and packer; in case of imported package, the name and address of importer shall be mentioned. Rule 6(2) as it stands today prescribes that every package shall bear the name, address, telephone number, e-mail address of the person who can be or of the office which can be contacted in case of consumer complaints. At this stage, we remind ourselves the quote of Lord Ree in Jones case (supra) that the close attention, and intensity with which the words under construction are examined would change the approach. In Section 18 as well as Rule 6, the word "declarations" is used by the Parliament and the Central Government in plural sense to mean that the obligation to furnish details encompasses more than one situation. These situations in many a case could be distinct warranting separate declaration. From the reading of various Rules in the Legal Metrology(Packaged Commodities Rules, 2011, it is further clear that the manufacturer or packer of a pre-packed commodity is under obligation to declare measures, place of manufacture, person or office which can be contacted in case of grievance. Therefore, Rule 6 sub rule (1) obligates giving the details of manufacturer, packer, importer and whereas under sub-rule (2) the name and address of the person or the office which can be contacted in the case of consumer complaints is required to be furnished. Therefore, on the detailed examination and interpretation of the relevant and applicable Sections, we are of the view that the literal construction to sub-rule (2) of Rule 6 is the correct tool for interpreting Rule 6(1) & (2).
39. Let us next examine the conclusion arrived at in the order under appeal viz., that by purposive interpretation the declaration made as noted through panchanama dated 24.04.2018 would satisfy the requirement of sub-rule (2) of Rule 6. The Act deals with measurement by quantity, weight, length etc. and provides for a standard followed in the commercial parlance. The manufacture, sale etc., by pre-packaged commodity is also accepted by the Act. The Court, while interpreting the provisions made in public interest or intended for the benefit, interprets by keeping in view the entire conspectus of statutory scheme. Let us hasten to add that there exists distinction between measurement of quantity in the presence of a buyer and on the other acceptance of quantity, date of pack etc., basing on the declaration made on the prepackaged commodity and buying the commodity by accepting those details. Rules 2011 deal with sale of pre-packaged commodity. Therefore, in this context we need to take judicial notice of hordes of pre-packaged commodities flooding the markets and the need for complete compliance with the Rules. The Rules prescribe a few declarations required to be made by manufacturer or packer. The declaration referred to in sub-rule (2) of Rule 6 deals with the consumers' right to complain to
a person or office if he has a grievance. The details under sub-rule (1) of Rule 6 which substantially deal with manufacturer, packer etc., if are treated as complying with sub-rule (2) of Rule 6, we are of the view that such interpretation defeats the purpose of the Act and the Rules. Therefore, in our view the situation directly admits literal interpretation and for interpreting the Rule, this Court does not prefer purposive interpretation. 40. The next question is whether the requirement under sub rule (2) is mandatory or directory is determined by interpreting whether the Rule allows discretion to the subject or the person on whom it is binding in while operating Rule. The extent of obedience between the mandatory enactment and the directory enactment can be stated thus the mandatory enactment must be obeyed or fulfilled exactly and it is sufficient if a directory enactment be obeyed or fulfilled substantially. (i) The directory requirement falls under two heads those are substantially complied with to make an Act valid. (ii) Those who even if have not at all complied with, have no effect on the Act complained. We are aware that the language alone is not decisive always, but the Court keeps regard to the context of subject matter and object of the statutory provisions in question in determining whether the provision is mandatory or directory. It is also well settled principle of interpretation of statute that plain language employed in a Section or Rule must be given its plain and ordinary meaning (see Mohan Singh v. International Airport Authority of India : (1997) 9 SCC 132. 41. Therefore, we conclude that the declarations prescribed by Section 18 of the Act read with Rule 6(1) & (2) are mandatory and the manufacturer etc., is under legal obligation to comply with the requirements. 42. The order under appeal finds that the petitioner failed to indicate the details required by Rule 6(2) of the Rules and that if those details are given, the petitioner could have done better. The order under appeal relies on the decision of the Apex Court in Nirma Limited v. State of Punjab : (2015 Law Suit (SC) 546, which considered Rule 32 of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, 1955. In our view reliance on a decision rendered under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules ought not to have pari materia application to the scheme of Act and the Rules, to hold that the provision under interpretation as noted above is directory. Further, the order proceeds on the ground that by equating the details furnished under Rule 6(1) as satisfying the requirement under Rule 6(2) could be sufficient for the purpose of giving declaration, is substantially complied with, is untenable, in view of our consideration and conclusions recorded above. The omission to take note of deletion of words through GSR No. 385 (E) has resulted in the findings recorded in the order under appeal. As already noted Sections 18, 52 (2) (j) read with Rule 6 provide for declarations i.e., more than one. The declarations are also in different context and for different purposes. The omission pointed out against the petitioner is that it has not given the declaration of name etc., of person or office who can be contacted in case of complaints. The Rule, if literally read, reads as follows: 1) Every package shall bear the name, address, telephone number, e-mail address of the person who can be contacted in case of consumer complaints. 2) Every package shall bear the name, address, telephone number, e-mail address of office which can be contacted in case of consumer complaints. 43. In the above analysis, this Court is of the view that the requirement of sub-rule (2) of Rule 6 is mandatory and in the case on hand, admittedly the details given in compliance with the requirement of Rule 6(1) are treated as satisfying the requirement of 6(2) as well, hence are untenable and are accordingly set aside. 44. The respondents through panchanama dated 24.04.2018 have seized stock nearly worth Rs. 2.4 crores. The shelf life of the stock is stated as 12 months i.e., 20/21-4-2018. Section 15(3) authorizes 2nd and 3rd respondents to order disposing of such goods in such manner as may be prescribed. As the shelf life is 12 months from 20th April, 2018, the 2nd and 3rd respondents consider ordering disposal of seized goods within three days from today, subject to conforming to sub-rule (2) of Rule 6 as a special case. The disposal of goods is without prejudice to all other issues being considered in accordance with law by both parties. 45. The Learned G.P is given liberty to communicate the operative portion of the order to 2nd and 3rd respondents forthwith. 46. For the above reasons, we hold that the order under Appeal is liable to be set aside and accordingly the writ appeal is allowed by setting aside the order under appeal. The W.P fails and dismissed. 47. As a sequel thereto, miscellaneous petitions, if any, pending stand closed.