New Delhi: Two weeks after the rollout of Goods and Services Tax (GST) tax, under which sanitary napkins are taxed at 12 per cent, the Delhi High Court today sought a reply from the Finance Ministry by November 15 after a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed, questioning the move with regards to indirect taxation on this basic necessity. The Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and C Hari Shankar issued the notice after a plea was filed by Zarmina Israr Khan, a Ph.D. scholar.
Delhi HC seeks reply from Finance Ministry by Nov 15 on PIL filed against 12% GST on sanitary napkins.
— ANI (@ANI) July 18, 2017
Prior to GST, the tax rate varied from state to state and there were multiple taxation on products. According to manufacturers, the average tax on sanitary napkins prior to GST was 14.5 per cent on an average. But the argument against 12% GST that the plea makes is to further bring down the tax levied as sanitary pads are a necessity and not a luxurious item. “A menstrual cycle is not a matter of choice. Sanitary napkins are thus, not a luxury, nor are they a lifestyle product. On the contrary, they are, in fact, a basic necessity and an essential item for women,” points out the petition.
India has 355 million menstruating women and a whopping 88 per cent of the women in India do not use sanitary pads. One of the major reasons for low adoption of sanitary pads is its high cost, and GST regime ensures the cost stays in the higher bracket. A majority of the women in India opt for alternatives like old cloths or newspapers which pose several health risks. “These materials pre-dispose women to reproductive tract infections and have the potential to severely compromise their health,” read the petition.
Ever since the tax was imposed, industry experts and citizens across India have questioned the move. Likewise, an excerpt from the petition also claims that imposition of such a high tax rate is ‘illegal’ and ‘arbitrary’
Imposition of this high rate of tax, which is ex-facie unconstitutional, illegal and arbitrary, has witnessed strong dissent and calls for corrective action from individuals and organizations across the country, read the petition.
Calling the right to access and use of sanitary napkins as a fundamental human and constitutional right the petition claims that the tax violates article 21 wherein the right to live with human dignity has been compromised and hence it needs to be struck down.