Mischief
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This article is written by Diya Rastogi, from Banasthali Vidyapith, Rajasthan. This article mainly deals with the Offences related to the Weights and Measures, their Fraudulent use and Punishment under the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The article has been edited by Khushi Sharma (Trainee Associate, Blog iPleaders) and Vanshika Kapoor (Senior Managing Editor, Blog iPleaders). 

Introduction 

We are all aware of the word, ‘Fraud’ because we hear it very often in our daily lives. But many of us don’t know that there are numerous types of fraud that have been occurring for so many years. Fraud can be defined as when a person intentionally deceives someone with the aim of achieving personal gain or to cause loss/damage to another individual. It includes intentional and wilful representation of facts. The most important ingredient of fraud is the ‘intention’ of a person committing a fraud’. If a person without malice/bad intention does something it will not amount to fraud. 

There are so many ways where consumers are exploited such as by the traders or shopkeepers when they sale adulterated goods, degrade the quality of a product, supply of defective goods and so on but the most important amongst all of these is the Fraudulent use of any instrument for weighing actually less than the full weight whether the instruments are used in industrial production (a measurement involved in Human safety), commercial affair etc. 

Sometimes the commodities which are sold by weight or measure are found to be less than the actual one only because of the use of false weights and measures by the traders. It is very common malpractice adopted by them, so to safeguard the interest of all the consumers and to create awareness amongst them certain provisions were enacted under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 in Chapter XIII from Section 264-267 in the context of the ‘Weights and Measures’ so that these unfair practices can come to an end and the persons involved in such offences can be punished. [1]

Legislations passed in context of standard of weight and measures are as follows

The first Act namely ‘Standards of the Weights and Measures Act’ was passed in the year 1956. It was enacted by the Parliament of India to provide a uniform standard of weights and measures. It was based on the metric system and has fixed the standard weight, capacity and length as a kilogram, litre and a metre respectively. But later certain changes were made to this Act and it was replaced by the ‘Standards of Weight and Measures Act, 1976’. This Act has laid down the specified standards of the weights and measures instruments used in commercial transactions, industrial production etc.  It has also regulated the sale of pre-packed goods or distributed by weight, measure or number in the course of inter-state trade and commerce in weights and measures. 

Then the ‘Standard of Weight and Measure Rules, 1977’ came into existence. This Act laid down certain rules such as: 

  • All the weights and measures have to be only in standard units. 
  • All the manufacturers of packaged commodities have to be registered under this act.
  • The goods/commodities which will be sold in packaged form shall contain a clear and proper declaration. 

After some time, the ‘Standard of Weight and Measures (Enforcement) Act’ was enforced in the year 1985 which has repealed all the provisions of any other law except the ‘Standard of Weights and Measures Act, 1976’. This Act has prohibited the use of any wrong or different weights and measures other than the prescribed or standard one. 

But with the rapid increase and advancement in technological innovations and globalization of economies, various new instruments and techniques related to the standard weights and measures have been established. By keeping these changes in mind, the Central Government enacted the ‘Legal Metrology Act, 2009’. This Act came into force on 1 April 2011 and has repealed and replaced the Standard of Weights and Measures Act, 1975 and Standards of Weights and Measures (Enforcement) Act, 1985. This Act has established the standard of weights and measures and has regulated trade and commerce in weights, measures and other commodities which are sold or distributed by weight, measure or number and have also established Government approved test centres for verification of weights and measures. Some provisions were also made under the ‘Indian Penal Code, 1860’ which made this offence punishable.

Sections that deal with such offence and their punishment under this code are as follows 

Meaning of fraudulent use of false instrument for weighing 

According to Section 264 of the IPC, 1860, ‘whoever fraudulently uses any instrument for weighing which he knows to be false, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.’ 

Thus, it can be deduced that an individual who has malice or bad intentions of cheating their customers by manipulating weighing scales will be punished under this criminal code. This is purposefully done to exploit the consumers and to gain personal profits. This section relates to the fraudulent use of any instrument of weighing which is known to be false and used only for the purpose of weighing fewer weights instead of full weights. For instance, if the possession of an instrument of weighing and measuring is not wrong and also there is no establishment of the fraudulent intentions of the trader/ shopkeeper, it will not constitute the offence of fraud under this section and hence he cannot be held liable. The accused shall be punished under this section with simple imprisonment or with a fine or with both. The said offence under this section is a bailable offence. It is a non-cognizable and non-compoundable offence and it is triable by the Magistrate. 

In Emperor vs. Kanayalal Mohanlal Gujar, the meaning of the word fraud has been described. It means, ‘false or different instrument of weighing’ and ‘false weight or measure’ of length or capacity other than the one which the person who defrauded and the offender have fixed upon expressly or impliedly in reference with the dealings they both have adopted.

Essential ingredients to prove/make an individual accused under this section are as follows 

1) There must be the usage of an instrument for weighing by an accused.

2) The instrument which will be used for measuring must have been false/wrongful to the knowledge of the accused. 

3) The accused must have used it knowingly or intentionally. 

Fraudulent use of false weight or measure

According to Section 265 of the IPC,1860, whoever fraudulently uses any false weight or false measure of length or capacity, or fraudulently uses any weight or any measure of length or capacity as a different weight or measure from what it is, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both

This section of the IPC is the extension of the preceding section. It can be inferred that if an individual uses false weights and measures of length and capacity or any other measure of length and capacity as a different weight or measure from what it is, shall be punished under this section with simple imprisonment or with fine or with both. The said offence under this section is a bailable offence. It is a non-cognizable and non-compoundable offence and it is triable by the Magistrate

Essential ingredients to establish an offence under this section are as follows

1) The accused must have used such a false weight to measure length or capacity.

2) The weight or measure should be a false/wrongful one.

3) That the accused did so with malice/fraudulent intention.

Being in Possession or has kept the False Weight or Measure  

According to Section 266 of IPC, 1860, ‘whoever is in possession of any instrument for weighing, or any of weight, or of any measure of length or capacity, which he knows to be false, intending that the same may be fraudulently used, shall be punished with the imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine or with both.’ 

This section of the IPC clearly states that if a person has the possession of false weight or measure knowing that they are false and has kept them with the intention to deceive the other person to believe that a particular weight or measure is an accurate and authentic one shall be punished under this section with the simple imprisonment or with fine or with both. Mere possession of a false weight and measure is enough to invoke the provisions The said offence under this section is a bailable offence. The offence under this section is a bailable offence. It is a non-cognizable and non-compoundable offence and it is triable by the Magistrate. 

Essential Ingredients to establish a charge under this section are as follows 

1) The weights and measures must be wrongful.

2) They must be in the possession of the accused person.

3) The accused must know that they are false/wrongful.

4) The accused must have kept with him with the intention to cheat or deceive another person. 

In Bansidhar vs the State of Rajasthan, the applicant was the licensed opium dealer in the town of Sambhar and was prosecuted under Section 266 of the IPC, for keeping two sets of weights in his shop and that one set of the weights was less in weight than the standard weight, and that he intentionally deceived his customers by using false weights. The true and false weights were found beneath the gunny bag on which the accused was sitting. The court held that the accused possessed false weights, knowing that these weights are false and with the intention that the same might be fraudulently used to deceive others. Hence, the accused was found guilty. 

In Emperor vs Harak Chand Marwari, the accused and the purchaser both were well aware of the actual measure of calculation being used while the sale of goods, no question of malice or fraudulent intention arose on the part of the accused as both the parties have expressly agreed with no dishonest intention on the part of the accused on the same measuring instrument. Thus, it was held by the Hon’ble court that fraudulent intent is an essential ingredient to prove an accused guilty under this section and thus it was absent. Both the parties impliedly agreed on a certain measure of instrument hence he was not held liable as it does not amount to fraud. 

Producing/Making or Selling False Weight or Measure

Section 267 of IPC, 1860 reads as, ‘whoever makes, sells or disposes of any instrument for weighing, or any weight, or any measure of length or capacity which he knows to be false, in order that the same may be used as true, or knowing that the same is likely to be used as true, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year or with fine or with both.’

This section clearly states that if a person produces, sales or disposes of any wrong instruments or balances, weights or measures shall be punished under this section with simple imprisonment or with fine or with both. The said offence under this section is a bailable offence. It is a non-cognizable and non-compoundable offence and it is triable by the Magistrate. 

Essential ingredients to prove this offence are as follows 

1) The accused must make, sell or dispose of any instrument for weighing for any weight or any measure for length or capacity.

2) Such instruments, weights or measures must be wrongful.

3) The accused must know that they are false/wrongful.

4) The accused disposes of such an instrument in order that it might be used as genuine. 

Conclusion

The law states that if anyone weights and measuring the capacity of goods and selling the same to their customers then the instrument which is used for weighing and measuring should be accurate and not a fraudulent one. For example, sometimes the traders use wrong weights and measures such as there may be a hollow space in weights which the person buying may not see or the weighing balance may not be used accurately etc. It is a must that the goods which have been sold should be accurately weighed, measured or counted. It is our duty as responsible citizens of this country that if we see anyone possessing wrong weights or indulging in these unlawful activities then immediate action must be taken against that person. He/she shall be held liable for his/her fraudulent activities and shall be punished with the same under the law.

By being aware and using good judgement is how one can protect yourself from such frauds.  Hence, it can be concluded from the above discussion that Sections 264-267 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 were enacted to prevent the consumers from such existing frauds and to strengthen the confidence of the general public against unfair trade practices regarding fraudulent use of weight and measure instruments. 

References

[1] K. D. GAUR, INDIAN PENAL CODE 595-598, LEXISNEXIS, 2020. 

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