GST on Mobility Aids of Disabled is Appropriate ?

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IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 7th Nov 2020

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone can see.” – Confucius

Dear Aspirants
IASbhai Editorial Hunt is an initiative to dilute major Editorials of leading Newspapers in India which are most relevant to UPSC preparation –‘THE HINDU, LIVEMINT , INDIAN EXPRESS’ and help millions of readers who find difficulty in answer writing and making notes everyday. Here we choose two editorials on daily basis and analyse them with respect to UPSC MAINS 2020-21.

EDITORIAL HUNT #229 :“GST on Mobility Aids of Disabled is Appropriate ?

GST on Mobility Aids of Disabled is Appropriate ?

Suhrith Parthasarathy
GST on Mobility Aids of Disabled is Appropriate ?

Suhrith Parthasarathy is an advocate practising at the Madras High Court

      HEADLINES:

Market dictates and a blow against equality

      CENTRAL THEME:

The GST levy on mobility aids places a prohibitive burden on the ability of disabled citizens to lead a dignified life

SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3 : GST

      MAINS QUESTION:

It is time we recognised that an unreasonable levy on mobility aids can deeply compromise fundamental human needs of disabled people. Comment -(GS 3)

      LEARNING: 

  • Power of Judicial Review vs GST
  • Tax and Fundamental Rights
  • Market Forces at play
  • A reasonable classification

      INTRODUCTION: 

  • SC ON MOBILITY AIDS USED BY DISABLES : The Supreme Court of India recently heard brief arguments on the constitutional validity of the levy of Goods and Services Tax (GST) on mobility aids used by disabled citizens.
  • NIPUN MALHOTRA VS.UNION OF INDIA : The petitioner argued that the tax imposed on these products, which included wheelchairs, tricycles for the disabled, braille paper and braille watches, was patently discriminatory.

The Court indicated that the scope of its power to review the levy was small.

  • POWER OF JUDICIAL REVIEW : A decision to impose a tax, it said, was a matter of policy over which the judiciary ought not to ordinarily interfere.
  • SC SUGGESTION : SC suggested that the petitioner exhaust his options by submitting his grievances to the GST Council, which is the governing body responsible for determining which products are taxed, and at what rate.

      BODY: 

TAX AND A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT

  • REASONABLE APPROACH : If the GST Council reject the petitioner’s plea, it would be imprudent of the Court not to test the legitimacy of the levy.
  • AMBIT OF JUDICIAL REVIEW : Judiciary must recognise that there is nothing inherently distinct about taxing laws; they are in no way complete and do not come under judicial review.

The judiciary does not sit on judgment over matters that fall within the domain of legislative and executive competence. 

  • TAXES IMPACT SOCIETY : Contrarily, taxes have been a direct bearing on how society is arranged.
  • RIGHT TO SPEND (FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT ) : The nature and rate of tax imposed on a product can impinge both on a person’s freedom and on a person’s right to be treated with equal care and concern.
  • ELSEWHERE IN THE WORLD : As the top courts in Canada and Colombia, among others, have recently held — to examine whether or not an imposition of a tax violates a fundamental right.

MARKET FORCES ARE AT PLAY

  • GRAND OPENING : The GST regime was launched amid much fanfare with the idea of simplifying India’s complex and multi-layered tax structure.
  • IDEOLOGY : It started with a view to fashioning the country into a unified, common market, in which the levy of GST will subsume almost all other extant indirect taxes.

The GST serves as a consumption tax on the supply of all manners of goods and services.

  • TRANSFORMATIVE APPROACH : At the time of its inception, the State claimed that the causes of liberty and equality would benefit from the States pooling their sovereignty together with that of the Union.
  • DETERRING STATE’S AUTONOMY : But what we have seen since is that with the withering of the States’ fiscal autonomy, it is the dictates of the market alone that appear to determine how and what goods are taxed.

The levy on commodities used by the disabled .

  • PREVIOUS TAXATION REGIME : Until the advent of the GST, mobility aids were almost entirely immune from indirect taxes.
  • EXEMPTED DISABLED COMMODITIES :  In virtually every State, exemptions were granted on the payment of value-added-tax on such goods.
  • AFFRONT TO DIGNITY : The State claims that it cannot relieve mobility aids from taxation, because to do so will disincentivise domestic manufacturers.

“The 5% concessional GST rate,”“will result in a win-win situation for both the users of such devices, the disabled persons, as well as the domestic manufacturers of such goods.”
 

  • PROTECTING MANUFACTURER : This argument is influenced by the GST’s structure, in particular the manner in which firms are allowed to claim credit on taxes paid by them in the making of a product.
  • TAX CALCULATION : Commodities will be entitled to claim credit for the tax paid when it remits the levy collected from the eventual purchaser of the product.

PARLIAMENT CAN FIND A WAY

  • EXEMPTIONS : Many other products that are essential to human needs are exempt from tax

EXAMPLE
The levy imposed on female personal hygiene products (tampons and sanitary pads) was removed.

  • LEGISLATIVE DESIGN : The grant of an exemption in cases such as these would disentitle manufacturers from claiming input tax credit is a matter of legislative design.
  • A CHANCE OF REBATE : A set off against taxes collected from the eventual consumers can scarcely be seen as the only legitimate mechanism available to ensure that a rebate is provided.
  • OTHER PLANS : State can exempt firms from paying taxes on inputs on the condition that such inputs will be used to manufacture mobility aids.

      IASbhai Windup: 

A REASONABLE CLASSIFICATION

  • A MATTER OF CLASSIFICATION : Ultimately, a decision taken on exempting goods from taxation is a matter of classification.
  • EQUALITY CODE : The Constitution’s equality code requires such a classification to be a reasonable one.

In the case of mobility aids, the oppressive nature of the levy is evident.

  • RIGHT TO DIGNITY : The tax places a prohibitive burden on the ability of disabled citizens to access the most basic goods, to lead lives with dignity.
  • EQUITABLE SHARE : Given that the classification rests on a state of disability, it must be seen, on any sensible consideration of our equality jurisprudence, as, at least facially, inequitable.
  • THE ONUS IS ON THE STATE :  State should show the Court that it had cogent reasons for treating these goods as distinct from other commodities that are exempt from tax.
  • LESSONS FROM GLOBE : The GST Council can take a leaf out of the books of Canada and Australia, and grant a complete exemption on the levy imposed on mobility aids.

Taxation, after all, is a tool that is intended to augment general welfare. 

  • TAX FREE NETS : To free taxing statutes from the ramparts of the Constitution is to risk the entrenching of inequality.
       SOURCES:   THE HINDU EDITORIAL HUNT | GST on Mobility Aids of Disabled is Appropriate ?

 

 

TRENDING NOW : Important The Hindu Editorials 

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