On Monday, the Supreme Court heard a writ petition challenging the imposition of Goods and Services Tax(GST) on products meant for the aid of persons with disabilities (Nipun Malhotra v Union of India).

The petitioner has said in support of his writ petition that a normal person is not required to pay tax for walking. However, a disabled person is required to pay 5% tax for walking. He submitted that most disability pieces of equipment are imposed GST at a rate of 5%.

The Attorney General for India, KK Venugopal, said that while he understood the difficulties of the petitioners at a humanitarian level, the mere imposition of tax cannot be held to be infringing the fundamental rights so as to warrant judicial interference.

He also informed the bench that further to the discussions he had held with the Ministry of Finance on the issue, it was conveyed to him that it was difficult to accept the plea of the petitioners.

In response, Senior Advocate Pinaki Mishra, advocate for the petitioner, submitted that the imposition of tax resulted in denial of equal opportunities for the differently-abled persons and created barriers for them to access the resources available to other people. 

The GST on disability aids was also a violation of the guarantee of equal opportunities made by the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016. He also added that civilized jurisdictions waive tax on products meant for disabled persons.

Justices D Y Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee, the three-judge bench granted liberty to the petitioner to move a representation with the GST council for zero GST on disability products.

Justice Chandrachud said that the court had doubts about whether it can interfere with a policy decision to impose the tax. The judge said that, in matters related to taxation, the scope of judicial review was very narrow.

The senior counsel of the petitioner replied that the decision to impose GST was taken by the GST Council and the Ministry of Finance only executed the Council’s decision. Therefore, he sought liberty to move a representation before the GST Council seeking a waiver of GST on disability products.

Accepting the Counsel’s request, the Supreme Court granted liberty to the petitioner to move a representation with the GST council for zero GST on disability products.

The writ petition is posted after three months to await the decision of the GST council.

With Warm Regards,

CL Bureau.

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