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Delhi HC notice to GST Council on plea challenging 12% tax on sanitary napkins

LiveMint logoLiveMint 18-07-2017 Shreya Agarwal

New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Tuesday issued a notice to the Union of India and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council on a writ petition filed by Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student Zarmina Israr Khan challenging the constitutional validity of the imposition of 12% GST on sanitary napkins.

Lawyer for the petitioner Amit George argued, “If a differential rate of taxation can be imposed on footwear, classifying between footwear below the price of Rs500 and those priced more, why can’t differential rates be imposed on sanitary napkins as well?”

The petition recognizes that sanitary napkins are not a luxury but a basic necessity for women and states as “shocking” its clubbing with other items such as toys, leather goods, roasted coffee, mobile phones and processed food.

Arguing about the arbitrariness of the imposition of a 12% rate of GST on sanitary napkins, the petitioner emphasized that goods such as “kajal, kumkum, bindis, sindur, alta, plastic and glass bangles, hearing aids, passenger baggage, puja samagri of all kinds, and all types of contraceptives, including condoms, have in fact been subjected to a ‘nil’ tax rate under the GST”.

The petition demands a nil or reduced rate of taxation for napkins as well.

George argued that this imposition was “equivalent to taxing the act of menstruation”, resulting in violation of Articles 15(1) and 21 of the Constitution insofar as the imposition burdens only women and affects their right to live with dignity.

Lawyer for the Union raised a technical argument that all concerned parties had not been added in the petition but was struck down by Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal who rebuked the counsel to be better prepared with replies on “legal grounds” raised in the petition.

The court duly taking note of the urgency of response that the matter demands, and in response to “dwindling availability of sanitary napkins” has issued notice to the Union of India and GST Council seeking response on the matter, while directing the petitioners to prepare and supply a brief note of representations to the former.

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