Hyderabad: A Madhapur restaurant, Fusion 9, has been booked by the department of legal metrology, Ranga Reddy district, for non-standard weight and measure. However, the complaint, based on which the department took action, was against the restaurant overcharging on bottled water.

Vinay Vangala, a social activist who had filed the case against Fusion 9, told NewsMeter, “My complaint against Fusion 9 was for overcharging. They charged Rs 50 for a Rs 20 Kinley water bottle. However, the legal metrology booked them under a different case. The restaurant is booked for non-standard weighing of alcohol.”

The case shows how restaurants are taking advantage of the 2017 Supreme Court order which supports overcharging of bottled water. According to the order, institutions that manufacture water bottles for their own use can charge above the MRP. However, the ambiguity on who those institutions are continues.

Mr Vangala said, “The Supreme Court judgement is very clear and it’s in favour of the citizens. The problem is only with how the legal metrology department has interpreted it. They need to read it in a sense that benefits the citizens.”

Responding to the issue, consumer rights activist and president of NGO Know Your Rights Society, Srikhande Umesh Kumar, told NewsMeter, “Even the legal metrology officials are scared of the restaurants. They are harassed by restaurant owners on the basis of the SC order if they bring up the issue of overcharging. So they book cases under a different section on such restaurants. Let’s say, for example, if Apollo manufactures a product and sells it at its stall then it can charge above the MRP. The apex court judgement is in favour of this. Even in that case, a label should be there on the water bottle stating it is for institution sale only.” Mr Kumar said, in fact, he has stopped filing cases against restaurants on MRP issues because of the legal metrology department’s stand on this.

The Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Association of India had argued in the Supreme Court that charging in excess of MRP for bottled water during the service does not violate the provisions of the Standards of Weights and Measures Act, the Packaged Commodities Rules or the Legal Metrology Act of 2010. It is in response to this argument that the Supreme Court had said hotels and restaurants can charge more than the maximum retail price for bottled water if it’s manufactured by the restaurant.

Meanwhile, overcharging for pre-packed products is an offence under the Legal Metrology Act and a fine of Rs 25,000 or a jail term can be rewarded to those found guilty. According to Section 36 of the Legal Metrology Act, “Anyone caught selling, distributing or delivering any pre-packaged commodity that does not conform to the declarations on the package shall be punished with fines up to Rs 25,000 for the first offence.

It can increase to Rs 50,000 for the second offence and subsequent offences can attract a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh or imprisonment for one year or both.” The activists are, meanwhile, planning to meet the legal metrology officials to discuss the issue.

Dheeshma Puzhakkal

Dheeshma Puzhakkal is currently a Reporter with Newsmeter. An alumnus of Hyderabad Central University, she has interned with Greater Kashmir newspaper and NDTV. Dheeshma has also made short films and documentaries. Her documentary ‘Still I Rise’, which is based on sex-trafficking in Hyderabad’s Old City, has earned accolades in several film festivals, such as International Documentary and Short Film Festival, Kerala (IDSFFK). An avid foodie, she loves to travel and listen to stories that others tell. Photography is one of her all-time interests. She has extensively written on satellite-based journalism, health, consumer, and data stories besides covering anti-crime investigative agencies.

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