On Friday, a Public Interest Litigation has been filed in the Delhi High Court challenging an order of the Central government of excluding mask and sanitizer from essential commodities and levying 18% GST on alcohol-based sanitizers.
The PIL filed by a social activist Gaurav Yadav and advocate Aarti Singh through advocates Amit Kumar Sharma, Satyam Singh Rajput, and Rohit Arora have sought a direction to the center to classify masks and sanitizers as essential commodities, regulate their prices and reduce the GST on alcohol-based sanitizers. Further, the petitioners submitted that the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs in not extending the notification dated 12 March, whereby the masks and sanitizers were classified as ‘essential commodity’ under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 and prices of masks and sanitizers were fixed at Rs 8/-, 10/-, 16/- and Rs 100/- respectively, thereby, terming it as ‘arbitrary’ ‘illogical’ and cited that it will have a vast impact on the conditions of the general public.
“That in contrast to the situation whereby masks and sanitizers have emerged as the basic necessity for every individual, the respondent No.1 vide the Office Memorandum bearing S-26/1/2020-ECR and dated 1st July 2020 stated that they have decided not to continue to classify masks and sanitizers as ‘Essential Commodities’ as no adverse reports from the State/UTs with respect to the price or availability to continue face masks & hand sanitizers as essential commodities,” read the plea.
On 4 June 2020, the Union Health Ministry had issued a standard operating procedure (SOP) on preventive measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 in offices whereby inter-alia the use of masks and sanitizers in offices was made mandatory, stated the plea.
The plea also said that in a normal situation, the companies, offices, workplaces, etc. have started opening up for work and therefore, the workers, employees, and laborers have to step out of their house for work and have to follow the safety rules including wearing masks and using hand sanitizers in factories, workplaces, and offices.
The petitioners submitted that these commodities are an essential requirement during the Coronavirus pandemic and sought directions to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Finance to reduce the GST rate of 18% on alcohol-based sanitizers to either 5% or 12%.
The matter is likely to be heard on 11 August.