New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday questioned the central government’s decision to impose 12 per cent of Goods and Services Tax (GST) on women’s most basic necessity – a sanitary napkin, saying when ‘bindi, kajal, sindoor’ can be kept out of the ambit of GST, then why not Sanitary Napkins which is more essential to the women. The court said that the government needs to relook at the GST imposed on sanitary napkins and just like the government made some 200 items cheaper in its 23rd GST Council Meet, it should also take Sanitary Napkins into consideration.
Expressing unhappiness over absence of any women in the 31-member Goods and Services Tax Council, the court said,
Have you discussed it with the Ministry of Women and Child Development before doing it or have you just looked at the import and export duty. This has to be done while keeping in view the larger concern.
The bench also asked whether the price of sanitary napkins has been increased after GST, to which counsel for the Goods and Services Tax Council responded,
If GST on sanitary napkins is reduced, it would apply even for the raw material involved, which will increase the input tax credit due to addition of financial cost in the form of interest burden, hence put local manufacturers at a disadvantage in comparison with importers.
Explaining their decision to levy 12% tax on sanitary napkins, GST council said,
In pre-GST era, sanitary napkins attracted concessional excise duty of 6 per cent and 5 per cent VAT and “the pre-GST estimated total tax incidence on sanitary napkins was 13.68 per cent. Keeping such pre-GST tax incidence in view, the GST Council has recommended 12 per cent GST on sanitary napkins.
To this, the bench said these are technical and statistical reasons and the government was playing with figures.
Earlier also the Delhi High Court sought a reply from the Finance Ministry after a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed, questioning the move with regards to indirect taxation on this basic necessity.
This reaction has come after Zarmina Israr Khan, who is a PhD scholar in African studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University filed a petition, challenging the levying of 12 per cent GST on sanitary napkins. The plea has termed the levy ‘illegal and unconstitutional.’
The petition said that the government had exempt goods like kajal, kumkum, bindis, sindoor, alta, plastic and glass bangles, hearing aids, passenger baggage, puja samagri of all kinds, and all types of contraceptives, including condoms, from the purview of taxation but not extended the exemption to sanitary napkins which are essential for the health of women.
The government has grouped sanitary napkins with toys, leather goods, roasted coffee, mobile phones and processed foods amongst others, for the imposition of a GST rate of 12 per cent under the present tax regime. Such an action/omission is palpably arbitrary and unreasonable, it said.
India is home to 355 million menstruating women and till today around 88 per cent of the women in the country still do not use sanitary pads. Mainly because they can’t afford it. And the GST regime is not helping.
The GST – one nation, one tax, became effective from July 1, and since the questions have been raised about the 12 per cent rate for sanitary napkins. Some women staged protests, while some sat on hunger strikes, whereas some met the authorities to request for a rate cut. But, till date, nothing has been done.
Immediately after Delhi High Court questioned the centre for the GST rate on Sanitary Napkins, netizens once again came out and voiced their opinions.
Fact is that 100% of the women in reproductive age group use sanitary napkins (and/or alike products). Another fact is that NOT 100% of the women in reproductive age group use bindi or kajal. So, which one do you think is a necessity and which one is a luxury here? #GST
— Amber (@oh_riiaaallyyy) November 16, 2017
Eating out is more essential than Sanitary Napkins for GST Council.
— Tushar (@TusharG) November 15, 2017
‘Sanitary napkins is not a luxury, it is a necessity’, Dear Mr Arun Jaitely, are you listening?
The next hearing of the court is schedule for December 14.