Govt may decriminalize the proposed fertiliser law, reduce the severity of the penalties.
Following public criticism of the proposed law on fertilizer’s ‘jail term’ clause, which is also perceived as going against the present government’s aim of ‘minimal government and maximum governance,’ the government is expected to decriminalize the violations specified in the proposed law.
According to industry sources, Fertiliser Ministry officials stated at their ‘Chintan Shivir’ held last week that revisions might be made based on comments collected from close to 1,000 stakeholders after compiling the proposals and further deliberations with them.
‘The punishment will be modified depending on the type and severity of the offense, and perhaps simply a toned-down penalty clause will be preserved while imprisonment is eliminated,’ said an industry official who was present during the government’s deliberations.
Provision for a penalty
According to sections 41 (2) and 41 (6) of the proposal Integrated Plant Nutrition Management Bill, a manufacturer, retailer, importer, or dealer convicted of selling or distributing misbranded or spurious fertilizer faces a prison sentence of ‘not less than six months but not more than three years,’ as well as a fine of up to ₹25,000.
On March 15, Consumer Affairs Minister Piyush Goyal stated that numerous consumer organizations were opposed to his efforts to decriminalize the Legal Metrology Act of 2009, which governs weights and measures standards. For the second or subsequent offenses, the legislation currently provides for imprisonment as well as a fine. Goyal had previously stated that the law should not be used as a ‘weapon of harassment.’
Other clauses that could be changed include the meaning of the term ‘ fertilizer,’ the registration system, criminal prosecution, and sample testing. this is simply a preliminary answer from the administration, and more revisions to the Bill may be allowed during deliberations, according to the sources.
Suggestions for concentrating on R&D
The administration argued that the Bill was drafted in accordance with the recommendations of a parliamentary standing committee and the necessity for the Fertiliser Ministry to properly manage the sector. Previously, the demand for fertilizer was based on state assessments, which were exclusively generated by the Union Agriculture Ministry, but under the new law, the exercise will be totally under the control of the Ministry of Fertiliser, according to sources.
Among the major responses received by the government are that the proposed Integrated Plant Nutrition Management Authority of India should focus more on research and innovation, that the quantum of penalty should be reduced based on the batch size of the product, that there should be no suo-motu cognizance of irregularities, and that inspectors should have limited power.
Furthermore, physical blending units under customized fertilizer, the inclusion of physical mixing of nutrients in the definition of fertilizer, price control, or movement allocation should be limited to subsidized fertilizers, with the definition of subsidized fertilizer in a separate chapter with greater clarity.