“This is a George Floyd moment for the citizens of this country. The refrain is ―I can’t breathe, albeit, in a somewhat different context and setting; although in circumstances, some would say, vastly more horrifying and ghastlier. Chased and riven by the merciless novel Coronavirus, the citizenry has been driven to desperation and despair”, the court observed while setting aside the Central government notification charging 12% IGST (Integrated Goods and Service Tax) on oxygen Cylinders imported as a gift for personal use during the Pandemic.
In the case of Gurucharan Singh vs. UOI, an 85-year-old petitioner approached the court against the levying of IGST on an imported oxygen concentrator received by him as a gift. The counsel for the petitioner highlighted that the notification issued by the state on 01-05-2021 reduced the tax on imported oxygen concentrators received as a gift for personal use from 28% to 12%, while the tax on commercial use continued to be 12% as before 01-05-2021.
Further, the state in its notification dated 03-05-2021 completely exempted the procurement of imported oxygen concentrators by “state Government or any canalizing agency from the purview of IGST till 30-06-2021.
The court held that the notification dated 03-05-2021 is in violation of Article 14 of the constitution as the “state cannot exclude a set of persons who would ordinarily fall within the exempted class by creating an artificial, unreasonable, and substantially unsustainable distinction”.
Further, the court opined that both the courts and the state should take a more humanistic approach, which in turn is a facet of Article 21 of the constitution. Therefore, the state has an obligation to take necessary steps to procure resources and protect and preserve the health of the person.
The court observed- It cannot issue a mandamus in favor of the petitioner yet it can judicially review the exemption notification and given the particular circumstances of the case, the impugned notification stands unconstitutional and hence quashed.