Plea in Supreme Court seeks GST exemption for COVID-19 medications, medical products
Lawyers’ organisation claims that the centre is empowered in the public interest, citing people’s suffering.
In the public interest, a group of lawyers petitioned the Supreme Court on Thursday, requesting that the Centre and the Office of the GST Council Secretariat abandon their “apathy” and exclude COVID-19 drugs and equipment from the GST system with “immediate effect.”
The Public Policy Advocates, represented by advocate Astha Sharma, filed a petition asking if the GST authorities and government officials involved were unable to see people running from pillar to post trying to obtain medications, oxygen, supplies, and hospital beds in order to save their loved ones.
The plea said the court should direct the GST Council “to convene a meeting expeditiously and direct exemption of GST with respect to COVID-19 related drugs, including, but not limited to, Remdesivir, Tocilizumab, Favipiravir and other drugs with similar generic constitution, medical equipment, including, but not limited to, ventilators and Bipap machines, and other medical treatment for infection prevention, control measures and supportive care for COVID-19 patients, including, but not limited to, medical grade oxygen, oxygen concentrators, etc.”.
According to the petition, Section 11 of the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017, Section 6 of the Integrated Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017, and the corresponding related sections in the State legislations regulating States Goods and Services allow the Centre to exclude GST in the public interest.
The step is necessary considering the “onset of the double mutant virus variant which was first identified around March-end of 2021, the rate of infection, the positivity rate, as well as the rate of hospitalisation for those requiring critical treatment have all increased exponentially”.
Cases increased from 8,000 on February 2 to 1,03,558 on April 5 in 63 days. According to official data released by the government, over 3.2 lakh cases were registered on April 26 alone, with over 2,000 deaths reported over a seven-day period. As of April 28, the country’s total number of infected people was estimated to be 3.8 lakh, with 3,645 deaths confirmed. This is the largest single-day increase in the number of COVID-19 positive cases and deaths in India’s history.
“The increase in cases brings with itself the inevitable financial burden on the families of the patients coupled with inadequate and intermittent supply of such medical drugs and equipment which are deemed crucial for the purposes of treatment for Covid 19,” the petition said.
According to the petition, the GST Council’s decision to exclude will make it more accessible for people to have the essentials for their loved ones, such as hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, and emergency medical medications.
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