The Delhi high court on Friday held as "unconstitutional”, the imposition of Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) by the Centre on import of oxygen concentrators by individuals for personal use.
A bench of Justices Rajiv Shakdher and Talwant Singh quashed the May 1 notification issued by the ministry of finance which says that such oxygen concentrators imported for personal use, irrespective of whether they are a gift or otherwise, will be charged with an IGST of 12 per cent.
The court said the individuals will have to give an undertaking to the authorities that the oxygen concentrator is being imported for personal use and not commercial use.
The court's verdict came on a plea challenging imposition of IGST on the import of oxygen concentrators as gift for personal use.
The court, which had earlier directed that the oxygen concentrator being imported by the 85-year-old petitioner be released by the custom authorities, subject to his depositing with the court an amount equivalent to the IGST payable, said the money be released to the man with accrued interest.
It had earlier issued notice and sought response of the Centre on the petition by the senior citizen, who was suffering from COVID-19.
He had said his nephew sent an oxygen concentrator for him as a gift from the US to ameliorate his condition.
The petitioner had challenged imposition of IGST on import of oxygen concentrators for personal use, as the essential equipment is already in shortage in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.
His counsel had earlier said another notification has been issued by the ministry on May 3 which stated that if someone is giving it for charity, then it is exempted from IGST.
The plea said the May 1 notification was violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution since the same is arbitrary and infringes the right to life of patients reeling under the COVID-19 pandemic.
It said the notification unconstitutionally mandates that the petitioner and other similarly placed Indian citizens to pay IGST on something as crucial as oxygen concentrator which is been gifted to them specifically for their personal use under the present circumstances wherein there is a nationwide crisis owing to the unavailability of oxygen concentrators and similar medical equipment.
The high court had earlier said this petition represents one of those rare writ actions, whereby, a notification issued in the realm of a tax statute has been assailed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
“That tax is an exaction by the State is well known.
"That its levy and collection, ordinarily, does not encompass equity, is also, well known.
"But, presently, we are living in difficult times and, therefore, perhaps, the petitioner has invoked Article 21 of the Constitution,” it had said.
Photograph: PTI Photo