The Rajya Sabha has approved amendments to the Bureau of Indian Standards Bill in order to improve the quality of goods and services produced in India.
Introduced in the Lok Sabha in August 2015 by Ram Vilas Paswan, Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, the Bureau of Indian Standards Bill, 2015, replaces the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986.
What is the Bureau of Indian Standards?
The Bureau of Indian Standards is the national standards body functioning under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution. It was established as per provisions of the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986. The Minister in charge of this Ministry or Department having administrative control of the BIS is the ex-officio President of the BIS.
The BIS comprises 25 members from the state/Central government, industry, scientific and research institutions and consumer organisations. Headquartered in New Delhi, it has regional offices in Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai, Chandigarh and 20 other branch offices.
Objectives of the amended bill:
i. To establish BIS as the national standards body of the nation. Though presently not recognised as the national body, it has been representing India in international forums.
ii. The Bureau to discharge functions through a Governing Council, which will consist of its President and other members.
iii. To include more goods, services and systems, besides articles and processes under the standardisation regime.
iv. To enable the government to bring under the mandatory certification regime all the articles, processes or services that are essential from the standpoint of health, safety, environment, prevention of deceptive practices, security, etc. This will prevent supply of low quality products and help consumers receive ISI certified products.
v. To allow multiple types of simplified conformity assessment schemes including self-declaration of conformity (SDOC) against any standard which will give manufacturers simplified options to follow standards and get a certificate of conformity, thereby improving “ease of doing business”.
vi. To enable the Centre to appoint any authority (in addition to the BIS) to ascertain the conformity of products and services to a standard and issue a certificate.
vii. To enable the government to implement mandatory hallmarking of precious metal articles.
viii. To strengthen penal provisions for effective compliance and enable compounding of offences for violations.
ix. To provide recall, including product liability of products bearing the Standard Mark, but not conforming to relevant Indian Standards.
x. Repeal of the BIS Act, 1986.
a. Scope of the Bureau of Indian Standards: Under the 1986 Act, standardisation and certification was applicable only to certain articles and processes. However, the amended Bill includes goods, services and systems that have been clearly defined in the Bill.
b. Establishment of BIS: It will be a national body which will devise, implement and certify quality standards for goods, services, articles, processes and systems. The Bureau will comprise expert panels in order to frame these standards. As per provisions of the Bill, a Governing Council would be responsible for the general superintendence, direction and management of the Bureau.
c. Certification of goods, services, etc: The Bureau would be a licensing authority for quality standards. A person should apply to the Bureau for a licence to obtain a standard mark, or a certificate of conformity, depending on the good, article, process, system, etc. The licence or certificate of conformity is proof that the item conforms to set standards. The Bureau will establish and maintain testing laboratories for quality assurance and conformity assessment of goods, articles, services, etc.
d. Certification of precious metals: A hallmark will be used to certify precious metal articles including silver, gold, platinum, and palladium or their alloys. A hallmark indicates a proportionate content of the precious metal in the article, as per the Indian standard. Such articles will be sold in certified sales outlets.
e. Mandatory certification of certain goods: The Bill allows the Union government to notify goods, articles, etc. that compulsorily need a standard mark. The government will notify goods/articles if it thinks them to be necessary for: (i) public interest or for the protection of human, animal or plant health, (ii) environmental safety, (iii) prevention of unfair trade practices, or (iv) national security.
f. Recall of goods, services, articles, etc: The Bureau may recall a good/article which is already out for sale or supply if it is convinced that the said good/article does not conform to the requirement of a particular standard.
g. Penalties: The penalty for improper use of the Indian standard mark will be a fine of up to Rs.5 lakhs. The Bill also stipulates penalties for: (i) improper use of the standard mark by testing and marking centres, and (ii) manufacturing or selling of goods and articles that do not carry a standard mark and have been mandated to do so, among others. The Bill provides for compounding of offences punishable with fine except when a person has committed such an offence for the second time or if such an offence committed by him has been compounded earlier.
h. Offences by companies: When a company commits an offence punishable under the Bill, persons in charge of the company will be presumed to be guilty regardless of whether the offence was committed without their knowledge, consent or involvement.
i. Appeals: An appeal against an order as regards the approval of a license or certificate of conformity, or compounding of offences, etc. may be made to the Director General of the Bureau. A further appeal against the order of the Director General may then be made to the Centre.
Conclusion: Amendments in this bill aim to effect significant changes to ensure high quality and safety of products and services produced across India. Standardisation will not only increase consumer satisfaction, but also compensate for any loss consumers incur.
Amended provisions applicable to health-related sectors, especially food products and safety, are a major step towards safeguarding the health of India’s populace.
Unanimous enforcement of the rules will result in global acceptance of Indian standards besides benefitting scores of domestic consumers.