The addition of Goods and Services tax to sanitary napkins last year sparked outrage amongst women. Women protested by sending sanitary napkins to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and filing petitions in Delhi and Bombay high Courts. In a new development, the apex court has stayed the proceedings pending before the Delhi and Bombay HCs. The pleas filed in these HCs opposed the constitutional validity of the 12% GST charged on sanitary napkins.

The SC bench, comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, heard the transfer petition by the Centre. For now, the bench has issued a notice, fixing a returnable date within four weeks, reported Live Law.

“The action of the Respondents amounts to ensuring that a woman is liable to pay tax on her inevitability to menstruate, a biological process that is inherent in women.”

A JNU PhD scholar, Zarmina Israr Khan, filed the petition in the Delhi HC. She seeks “recourse against the patently discriminatory and illegal treatment being meted out to the women of India by the unconstitutional and illegal imposition of a Goods and Services Tax at a high rate of 12% on sanitary napkins”.

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The other petition was filed in Bombay HC by an NGO, Shetty Women Welfare Foundation. This petition refers to an AC Neilsen report stating some disturbing facts about women’s treatment of menstruation. It notes some facts from the report like only 12% of India’s 355 million menstruating women use sanitary napkins. Over 88% of women resort to shocking alternatives like unsanitised cloth, ashes and husk sand. Incidents of reproductive tract infection (RTI) are 70% more common among these women.

However, Khan’s petition points out that contraceptive of various kinds like condom don’t have any tax levied on them. “The action of the Respondents amounts to ensuring that a woman is liable to pay tax on her inevitability to menstruate, a biological process that is inherent in women. Such an action, at best, represents a palpable nonchalance to the every-day reality faced by women in India, and at the worst, represents a parochial and misogynistic mindset,” she wrote in her petition.

 

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