The Delhi High Court on Wednesday asked the Centre for an explanation for taxing sanitary napkins, which are a necessity, in the face of exempting other items such as bindis, sindoor and kajal from the purview of the GST.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by Zarmina Israr Khan, challenging the levying of 12 per cent GST on sanitary napkins. As per the plea, the taxing on sanitary napkins was “illegal and unconstitutional.”
It said the government had exempted goods like kajal, kumkum, bindis, sindoor, alta, plastic and glass bangles, hearing aids, passenger baggage, puja necessities of all kinds, and all types of contraceptives from the purview of taxation but not extended the exemption to sanitary napkins that are essential for the health of women.
“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,” said the bench . It also expressed unhapiness over the absence of any woman in the 31-member GST council.
The central government standing counsel, Sanjeev Narula, submitted an affidavit on behalf of the Centre according to which in the pre-GST period, sanitary napkins had concessional excise duty of 6 per cent and 5 per cent VAT and the total tax incidence was 13.68 per cent. “Keeping pre-GST tax incidence in view, the GST council has recommended 12 per cent GST on sanitary napkins,” it said.
The affidavit added, “Reducing the GST rate on sanitary napkins to nil will result in complete denial of input tax credit to domestic manufacturers of sanitary napkins, while zero rating imports. This will make domestically manufactured napkins at a huge disadvantage vis-a-vis imports, which will be zero rated.”
It also said that the grouping of sanitary napkins with other products like toys and leather goods was “not in any way reflective of the importance or unimportance of the product in question”.
The allegation of arbitrariness was devoid of any legal basis as taxation was based on “ a matrix of factors,” said the affidavit adding that “the tax rate was neither arbitrary, nor violative of any constitutional guarantees….”