A petition has been moved before the Delhi High Court seeking directions to the Union for classifying masks and sanitisers as "essential commodities" and regulate their prices.
The petitioners have also sought a direction to Ministry of Finance & the GST Council to reduce the GST tax rate on alcohol based sanitisers from 18% to 5 or 12%.
The petitioners have further challenged the decisions of the Union Government of not extending its notifications dated March 13 & June 30 -- whereby masks and sanitisers were classified as "EssentialCommodities" under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 and prices of masks and sanitizers were fixed at Rs. 8,10,16 and Rs.100, terming it "arbitrary" & "illogical".
"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 bearingS-26/1/2020-ECR & dated 01/07/2020 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"
The plea states that as Covid cases have been showing a surging trend in the country, wearing of masks and using hand sanitisers has become of utmost importance for the general public to protect themselves from the Covid19 virus. Further to this, the petitioners contend that as all public places require masks to be worn, including workplaces, there is an ardent need to meet the requirement of emergency arising out of COVID19 and "their easy availability to the general public is necessary".
The petitioners state that "keeping the masks and sanitizers out from the classification of 'Essential Commodity' under Essential Commodities Act,1955 would increase the chances of malpractice viz. blackmarketing, pricehiking, hoarding etc. of the said products" and would expose economically challenged sections of the country to step out of work sans protective gear.
It is submitted that more than a quarter of India's population is living below poverty line and a GST rate of 18% on sanitisers "has led to the high prices .. thereby becoming a non pocket friendly necessity for citizens"
In this backdrop, the petitioners have sought directions by the Court to extend notifications by the Union to classify masks and sanitisers under the purview of essential commodities & reduce the GST rate applied on them to 5 or 12 %.
Gaurav Yadav, a social activist and Advocate Aarti Singh have moved the plea through Advocates Amit Kumar Sharma, Satyam Singh Rajput and Rohit Arora.
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