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Offences Relating to Weights and Measures | Overview
- Fraudulent use of the false instrument for weighing
- Fraudulent use of false weight or measure
- Being in possession of false weight or measure
- Making or selling false weight or measure
- Proposal for Reforms
Chapter XIII, IPC, deals with weight and measure offences. With regard to any standard weight or measure, they are not defined. In this case, false weight or measurement means that which is not current or in place use. Once again, mere possession of wrong weights or measures is not an offence. Their use alone will make the person who uses them liable for fraudulent intention.
I. Fraudulent use of the false instrument for weighing
“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.”(Section 264)
Under this section, the intention is an essential part of the crime. There are two aspects to this section: (1) dishonest use of some weighting device, (2) the understanding or knowledge that it is deceptive. The word ‘false’ means different in this and the following parts from what the individual and the dissatisfied party have agreed on, directly or indirectly, in terms of their reciprocal ties, the instrument, weight or scale.
In Kanayalal case, when the seller and the buyer decided that a certain calculation was to be used in order to measure the selling goods, the measure was held that it was not a false measure and there was no dishonest motive, although the default specification was not.
II. Fraudulent use of false weight or measure
“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.” (Section 265 IPC)
Section 264 punishes someone who uses a false ‘balance’. This chapter, however, punishes a person who uses a false ‘weight’ or ‘length or capacity’ measure. In Nurodin case, the accused who sold liquor was held to have committed an offence not under this section but under s, measuring it with a glass that was not the prescribed measure and of which he misrepresented the strength. He was thus held to have committed an offence not under this section but under s. 415.
III. Being in possession of false weight or measure
“Whoever is in possession of any instrument for weighing, or of any weight, or of any measure of length or capacity, which he knows to be false, 1[***] intending that the same may be fraudulently used, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.” (Section 266)
This section punishes a person who has a fake weight or measure just like ss. 235, 239 and 240 punish a person with a falsified coin and s. 259 penalizes a person with a counterfeit stamp.
If it is something other than what it is meant to be, a calculation is incorrect. If both buyer and seller are aware of the actual measure being used, as required by this section, there is no fraudulent intent. Only when the dealer purports to sell by a certain standard and sells below that level can it be said that he is guilty of fraud.
The mere possession of fake weights or measurements in itself will not create any strong suspicion of fraud, as they may have been put away so that they are not used. It must be shown that the defendant knew the scales were unreliable and that they were meant to be used fraudulently. The location where they are found will indicate the fraudulent motive.
Suppose a false balance was found fixed to the counter of a merchant where he was used to selling his goods, and there was no other location. In this scenario, there would be the strongest possible assumption of possession not being innocent.
IV. Making or selling false weight or measure
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.” (Section 267)
The purpose of this section is to prevent false scales, weights or measurements from circulating. It punishes a person making, selling, or disposing of a wrong balance, weight, or measure.
As mentioned earlier, Chapter XIII of the IPC deals with four major weight and measure offences. These are:
- fraudulent use of a false measuring device;
- fraudulent use of false weight or a false measure of length or capacity;
- possession of such device, weight or measure; and
- manufacture or sale of such device, weight or measure.
The maximum penalty for these offences is imprisonment for up to one year. It is a matter of experience that these crimes are often committed with impunity by unscrupulous traders.
The Legal Metrology Act, 2009, has adopted a uniform weight and measurement system based on metrics. This Act, repealing the 1976 Standards of Weights and Measures Act, sets the standards of weights and measures by which one meter is the primary unit of length and one kilogram is the primary unit of mass. It deals with various offences related to the misuse or fraudulent use of weights and measures and imposes penalties.
V. Proposal for Reforms
Recalling the occurrence of these crimes and their social implications and the subsequent difficulties, the Fifth Law Commission recommended dissuasive punishment for these offences. This recommended increasing the current maximum penalty from one year’s imprisonment to two years’ imprisonment. 
After drawing up a comparative sketch of the legislative framework of chapter XIII of the IPC and the corresponding penal provisions of the then prevailing Standards of Weights and Measures Act 1976, the Fourteenth Law Commission recalls that a complaint about violation of the provisions of the latter statute is filed only by the director or an authorised authority.
 (1939) 41 Bom L.R. 977
 (1888) Unrep. Cr. C. 386. 514
 Law Commission of India, ‘Forty-Second Report: The Indian Penal Code, Government of India, 1971, paras 13.1 and 13.3
 Law Commission of India, ‘One Hundred and Fifty-Sixth Report: The Indian Penal Code’, Government of
India, 1997, para 12.42.