The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the proceedings in the Delhi and Bombay high courts on petitions pertaining to 12% Goods and Services Tax on sanitary napkins, ANI reported. The Supreme Court said it would examine if all the matters should be heard by the top court itself, and issued notices to all petitioners.
The bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra was hearing the Centre’s plea seeking to be heard by the Supreme Court on the matter. The Centre had sought stay on proceedings in various high courts on pleas that challenge imposing GST on sanitary napkins.
Activists have criticised the government for taxing sanitary napkins under the GST, pointing out that they are a necessity for nearly half the population, and not a luxury product.
A Jawaharlal Nehru University PhD scholar Zarmina Israr Khan had filed a petition in the Delhi High Court challenging GST on sanitary napkins, calling it unconstitutional. An NGO had filed a petition in the Bombay High Court asking for the GST on sanitary napkins to be dropped. The Shetty Women’s Welfare Foundation had pointed out that only 12% of menstruating women in India could afford sanitary napkins.
On November 17, 2017, the Delhi High Court, while hearing Khan’s plea, had pulled up the Centre and Delhi government for exempting items like bindis, sindoor and kajal from the GST ambit, but not sanitary napkins. The bench had also criticised the government for not having a single woman in the 31-member Goods and Services Tax Council.
On January 16, the Bombay High Court had asked the Maharashtra government to consider making sanitary napkins available at subsidised rates. The bench had also asked the government to mention steps it had taken to spread awareness about the use of sanitary napkins.
GST on sanitary pads
Sanitary pads were placed in the 12% tax slab when the GST was implemented on July 1, 2017, though several other products such as sindoor and bangles were declared tax-free. Many items considered household necessities were placed in the 5% slab.
On July 10, 2017, the Ministry of Finance had put out a statement saying the tax on sanitary napkins under the GST was less than what it was before. The ministry said the napkins were taxed a total of 13.68% before the GST was implemented because a concessional excise duty and VAT was levied on them.
The government lowered the Goods and Services Tax rates on several items since the indirect tax regime was implemented in 2017. However, the changes didn’t apply to sanitary napkins and tampons. Tampons have 18% GST on them.