In a relief, the Centre said no penalty will be imposed till August on those who do not comply with the mandatory hallmarking of gold jewellery and artefacts that came into force from Wednesday in 256 districts across the country.
However, action will be taken on consumer complaints as per the law. The complaints can be filed on the BISCARE APP or consumer engagement portal of the Union consumer affairs ministry, it said.
So far, gold hallmarking in the country was voluntary in nature. But, in 2019, the government announced it would make it mandatory from January 15, 2021, but the deadline was extended twice till June 15 after the jewellers sought more time in view of the pandemic.
Move to protect interest of consumers: BIS
Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) Director-General Pramod Kumar Tiwari said it is a major move to protect the interest of consumers.
To ensure jewellers adapt to the new system, the government has decided not to impose a penalty on jewellers for only three months till August for non-compliance of the mandatory gold hallmarking norms, he added.
"This is a massive change that is happening in the ecosystem of the industry. There are lakhs of jewellers, including small jewellers, who have to register themselves and get accustomed to the new system. It takes time," Tiwari said.
The reason is that the government in three months will concentrate on handholding jewellers, helping customers and manufacturers to adapt to the new system, he said.
"It does not mean, if there are any complaints, i.e. someone is indulging in serious kind of malpractice, and no action will be taken. That is not the point," Tiwari said adding that after three months, a penalty will be imposed.
The BIS DG further said jewellers had apprehension that they would be punished if they were found to have committed "small mistake like in sending jewellery to assaying centres or delay in registering themselves for hallmarking".
"We have tried to allay these apprehensions. We have told jewellers not to be scared of the new system. Make best efforts to adopt," he said.
Mandatory hallmarking of gold jewellery in phased manner
Initially, the government was to implement the mandatory hallmarking of gold jewellery and related items in the entire country. But, after an overnight meeting with stakeholders, it decided to roll out in a phased manner and also relaxed this norm for certain players in the industry.
Asked the reason for the phased-wise approach, Tiwari said the government had been discussing with stakeholders and there was this "dilemma whether to do it in the entire country or in a phased manner".
"It is a conscious, balanced and positive decision that we have taken, taking into the interest of everybody. It is good for the country. We are making a beginning," he said.
It is a historical day and the government is quite sure that once the first phase is implemented successfully, the awareness among consumers will increase, he added.
Out of 715-odd districts in the country, mandatory hallmarking of gold jewellery and artefacts has come into force in 256 districts across the country for 14, 18 and 22 carats of gold jewellery/artefacts only from Wednesday.
Rest of districts will be included in two phases. In the second phase, another 240-odd districts may be mapped that are in the 100 km radius of the first phase districts after infrastructure is in place, he said.
Also, mandatory hallmarking of 20, 23, and 24 carats gold jewellery will be implemented in a phased manner, for which BIS is framing quality standards, he said.
There are some difficult areas, Tiwari said adding that for instance, in six northeastern states, there are no assaying centres. Such states and Union territories like Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and Adaman & Nicobar will be taken in the third phase.
The government has also relaxed mandatory gold hallmarking guidelines for some industry players.
Why jewellers with annual turnover of up to Rs 40 lakh per annum exempted?
Asked why jewellers with an annual turnover of up to Rs 40 lakh per annum were exempted, Tiwari said this has been done so that small jewellers do not face problem in accessing assaying centers.
Consumer Affairs Ministry Additional Secretary Nidhi Khare said, "The rest who have left out will do voluntary registration. I hope this will be a good selling strategy to improve the credibility."
Besides small jewellers, the government has also exempted those who export and re-import jewellery as per the government's trade policy, jewellery meant for international exhibitions as well as for government approved B2B domestic exhibitions.
The government has also exempted registration fee from jewellers which will be one time.
Tiwari said alteration in the hallmarked jewellery up to two grams of increase or decrease to be allowed with responsibility of purity on the jeweller.
Manufacturer, importer, wholesaler, distributor or retailer engaged in selling precious metal articles have to mandatorily get registered with BIS for hallmarking.
However, artisans or manufacturers who are just making the gold jewellery on a job work basis for the jewellers and are not directly related to sale to anyone in the chain are exempted for registration.
Hallmarking should be done at the first point of sale which may be manufacturer, wholesaler, distributor or retailer, he added.
Mandatory hallmarking will protect public against lower caratage
The mandatory hallmarking will protect the public against lower caratage and ensure consumers do not get cheated while buying gold ornaments and get the purity as marked on the ornaments.
The BIS has been running a hallmarking scheme for gold jewellery since April 2000. Around 40 per cent of gold jewellery is being hallmarked currently. The government said there has been a 25 per cent increase in assaying and hallmarking centers to 945 from 454 in the last five years.