On March 13, 2020, the government amended Essential Commodities (EC) Act, 1955 to declare 2 ply & 3 ply surgical masks, N95 masks & hand sanitizers as Essential Commodities up to 30th June 2020 to ensure that these products are available in the market at the right price given the outbreak of coronavirus & also has a measure to manage it.Key Points:
i.It also issued a consultation under the Legal Metrology(LM) Act,2009 that under EC law, after consultations with manufacturers, states can ask them to increase the production capacity of these products & streamline the supply chain, while states can ensure the sale of both products under MRP under the LM Act.
ii.Under the EC Act, the powers of the Central government have been already vested in the states
iii.Therefore the States /Union Territory(UT)s under EC Act can punish offenders with imprisonment up to 7 years or a fine or both & under Prevention of Black Marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980 (PBMMSEC), can detain for a maximum of 6 months.
iv.This will enhance the availability of both the items to the general people at reasonable prices or under MRP.
v.States are advised to advertise the state helplines to record consumer complaints of the 2 products, Consumers can register their complaints in National Consumer Assistance Number 1800-11-4000.
Gist about Acts
EC Act, 1955:
In 1955 the Central government enacted this act to regulate the production, supply & delivery of bulk products & make them available to consumers at reasonable prices. The list of 7 items under the Act includes Drugs, Fertilizer, Foodstuffs including edible oilseeds & oils, Hank yarn made wholly from cotton, Petroleum, petroleum products, Raw jute & jute textile. If needed, new items can also be added by the centre, when the situation improves, they can be taken off the list.
LM Act, 2009:
It is implemented with effect from 1st April 2011 it establishes and enforces the standards of weights & measures, regulate the trade & commerce in weights, measures & other goods sold or distributed by weights, measures or numbers, & for such related or incidental purposes.
PBMMSEC Act, 1980:
It provides the legislative & administrative foundation to control hoarding & black-marketing of essential commodities. State/UT advised now & then to take appropriate action against hoarding & black-marketing & to effectively enforce the acts.