GST on `Disabled’ Persons!

                                             

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

               Persons with disability, Social Issues GS-1, Social Justice  GS-2

    Editorial-Extracts

 

State’s taxes and organizing the society:

  • Taxes have a direct bearing on how society is arranged. 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.

GST’s unjust rates and impact on Social Justice:

  • The petitioner, in Nipun Malhotra vs. Union of India, argued that the tax imposed on these products, which included wheelchairs, tricycles for the disabled, braille paper and braille watches, was patently discriminatory.
  • The oppressive nature of the levy is evident. The tax places a prohibitive burden on the ability of disabled citizens to access the most basic goods, to lead lives with dignity.

 Way Forward:

The GST Council: The governing body responsible for determining which products are taxed, and at what rate.

  • 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.
  • A fair and just regime ought to demand nothing less.

The SC can intervene to do complete justice:

  • The Court indicated that the scope of its power to review the levy was slender. A decision to impose a tax, it said, was a matter of policy over which the judiciary ought not to ordinarily interfere.
  • Judiciary ought not sit on judgment over matters that fall within the domain of legislative and executive competence, it must recognize that there is nothing inherently distinct about taxing laws; they are in no way plenary and unmeanable to judicial review.
  • 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.
  • Therefore, it ought to be well within an independent judiciary’s province — 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.
  • The Constitution’s equality code requires reasonable classification while State provides welfare to the disadvantaged.

Taxation, after all, is a tool that is intended to augment general welfare. It is time we recognised that an unreasonable levy can deeply compromise fundamental human needs. To free taxing statutes from the ramparts of the Constitution is to risk the entrenching of inequality and injustice.

 

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