In a consultation meeting with stakeholders on amendments to the BIS Act 1986, Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Monday expressed concern over quality of gold jewellery.
Questioning the current practice of BIS, the national standard making body, to certify quality of gold of as low as 9 carat, Paswan asked the BIS to examine whether the jewellers are disclosing the quality of gold in terms of carats while selling and also to check the pricing mechanism of different grades of precious metal jewellery.
"I have heard of only about 18-24 carat gold. I am not aware of 9 carat gold. Are there different rates of gold in shops for different carats of gold?" Paswan asked BIS officials and directed them to file a report on this matter.

When Consumer Affairs Secretary Keshav Desiraju tried to explain that BIS is only certifying agency for quality of gold ranging from 9-24 carats, Paswan told Desiraju that he is also secretary for the department that is responsible for consumer protection.

Paswan said the Ministry has received the suggestion that BIS should certify gold jewellery only of 18-24 carats and the same would be considered after getting the BIS report.

He stated that there is very little awareness about gold hallmarking among consumers.

"Through the amendment of BIS Act, we are giving a legal status to gold hallmarking but it will remain a voluntary standard," he said, adding that the decision on making hallmarking of gold jewellery mandatory has not been taken yet.

Hallmarking of gold jewellery was started by BIS in April 2000 to provide third party assurance to consumers on the purity of gold jewellery or its fineness.
Under the scheme, a jeweller has to obtain licence from BIS to get his jewellery hallmarked. The hallmark can be done at any Assaying and Hallmarking centres recognised by the BIS.     

Elaborating on the need to amend the BIS Act, Paswan said the government wants to "simplify every process including the registration, without making any comprise on standards".

He said the Ministry is trying to bring this amendment before the Cabinet and the Parliament at the earliest.

The proposed amendments includes allowing BIS to make standards for more products from the current 90 items and enhancement of penalties, besides permitting the BIS to make standards for services.

On packaged drinking water, Paswan favoured making the bottles tamper-proof and displaying details like date of manufacturing and expiry on the bottle instead of the current practice of mentioning such information on wrappers.

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