Enhancing Quality Standards: Amendments to General Grading and Marking Rules in Agriculture

In a significant move towards bolstering quality standards in agriculture, the Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has proposed amendments to the General Grading and Marking Rules. Published in a recent notification, the amendments aim to refine the existing framework established under the Agricultural Produce (Grading and Marking) Act of 1937.

Scheduled for implementation upon final publication in the official Gazette of India, these amendments signal a proactive approach by the Central Government to ensure the integrity of grading and marking practices across various agricultural products. Let’s delve into the key provisions outlined in the notification:

Strengthening Definitions and Framework
The notification introduces new definitions such as “Adjudicating Officer” and clarifies the scope of inquiries under the Act. By reinforcing clarity in terminology and procedures, these amendments seek to streamline adjudication processes and enhance regulatory effectiveness.

Penalties and Adjudication
One of the notable amendments pertains to penalty provisions and adjudication procedures. The rules specify penalties for unauthorized grading and marking activities, counterfeiting of grade designation marks, and selling misgraded or unmarked agricultural articles. Adjudication officers will conduct inquiries and ensure due process, including providing opportunities for representation and evidence submission.

Emphasis on Accountability and Fairness
The amendments underscore the importance of accountability and fairness in enforcement measures. Adjudicating officers are mandated to consider various factors, including the extent of contravention, potential harm caused, and the intent of the violator, in determining penalties. Moreover, provisions for appeals offer recourse for individuals aggrieved by enforcement decisions, promoting transparency and procedural justice.

Modernizing Administrative Processes
In line with the government’s commitment to digital governance, the notification emphasizes the use of online platforms for penalty remittance and appeal filings. By leveraging digital payment portals and standardized appeal formats, the administrative process is streamlined, reducing bureaucratic hurdles and ensuring efficient resolution of disputes.

Timely Resolution and Review Mechanisms
Efforts to expedite adjudication processes are evident in the stipulated timeframes for issuing final orders and disposing of appeals. Adjudicating officers are mandated to resolve cases within specific timelines, promoting swift justice delivery. Additionally, provisions for suo-moto review underscore the commitment to continuous improvement and corrective action.

Facilitating Stakeholder Engagement
The notification invites stakeholders to contribute their feedback and suggestions, reflecting a collaborative approach to policy formulation. By soliciting inputs from industry experts, farmers, and other stakeholders, the government aims to develop a robust regulatory framework that addresses the evolving needs of the agricultural sector.