The Supreme Court today sought a response from the Centre on a plea seeking to strike down the levy of Goods and Services Tax (GST) on essential equipments meant for differently-abled persons.
A bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud issued notice to the Ministry of Finance on the PIL which alleged that imposition of GST on mobility aids like wheelchairs, tricycles, crutches and Braille paper and watches for differently-abled people, was in violation of their fundamental rights.
The court, which was initially reluctant to admit the plea, later issued notice on the petition of wheel-chair bound Nipun Malhotra challenging the levy of GST on equipments meant for differently-abled persons.
The plea, filed through lawyer Jai A Dehadrai, alleged that while imposition of a tax on wheelchairs was akin to imposing a financial penalty on differently-abled for walking, putting any tax on Braille-material and writing paper was akin to imposing a state-sponsored financial burden on reading.
It also sought a "purposive interpretation" of Article 15 of the Constitution to recognise the fundamental rights of differently-abled persons with regard to prohibition of discrimination.
It said that a representation was earlier sent to the Ministry of Finance seeking withdrawal of all GST-related levies on equipments used by the disabled who are already burdened with physical limitations.
"It is shocking to note that taxes have been introduced and sustained on the most basic mobility aids used by those citizens who would otherwise not be able to carry out daily activities, such as walking and reading, which are taken for granted, and are tax-free by those who are able-bodied.
"This list includes a cascading tax scheme on items such as wheelchairs, wheelchair enabled cars, braille paper, braille typewriters and braille watches, crutches/walkers, instruments and implants for severely handicapped patients and joint replacement and spinal instrument and implants including bone cement," the petition said.
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