The Delhi High Court asked the government on Thursday why sanitary napkins are not exempt from the Goods and Services Tax, when items like bindis, sindoor and kajal were kept out of its ambit, PTI reported.

The High Court bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar was hearing a petition filed by a Jawaharlal Nehru University PhD scholar Zarmina Israr Khan, who challenged the 12%-GST on sanitary napkins, calling it unconstitutional.

“You exempt bindi, kajal and sindoor. But you tax sanitary napkins. It’s such a necessity. Is there any explanation for it,” the bench asked the government.

A bench also pulled up the government for not having a single woman in the 31-member Goods and Services Tax Council.

The Centre said if the government exempted sanitary napkins from tax, the cost of the product would go up. “Reducing GST rate on sanitary napkins to nil will result in a complete denial of input tax credit to domestic manufacturers,” the government’s counsel, Sanjeev Narula, told the court. Narula said this would put domestically manufactured sanitary napkins at a huge disadvantage when it comes to imports. The government maintained the tax rate was neither arbitrary, nor did it violate any constitutional guarantees.

The bench responded saying these were technical and statistical reasons and that the government was playing with figures. “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?” the bench asked, and listed the matter for December 14.

The government lowered the Goods and Services Tax rates on more than 200 items after its most recent GST council meeting. However, the changes didn’t apply to sanitary napkins and tampons. Tampons have 18% GST on them.

The new rates came into effect from November 15.