The Indian Union Health Ministry has put an end to rumours that it has agreed to an extension to new regulations forcing bottled water producers to stamp all packaging with the ISI mark.

A health ministry source told Business Line that packaged water manufactured before the notification period lapsed (March 29, 2001) will be allowed to sell in the market until their respective "expiry dates or best before period" lapses. But it is not a six-month extension.

"Under no circumstances can this advice be construed as an extension," the official said. And as this advice had no legal binding, he said that if the state authorities still wanted to prosecute, there was nothing to stop them.

"The two concessions of allowing existing stock and manufacture is only in the case of manufacturers whose applications for certification were made before March 29, 2001 and are currently pending with the Bureau of Indian Standards," he said.

But the Department of Consumer Affairs has requested for time to be extended only to enable the process of certification to be completed. And a press release issued by the government said that companies who have applied for certification before the March deadline would now be given until June 30, 2001.