With the Goods and Service Tax in place, top domain experts and officials from the GST Intelligence and the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) briefed judges about the new tax system recently, according to documents available in the public domain. 20 judges from 12 high courts brainstormed with experts and top government officials on identifying grey areas in the new regime that may throw up litigations in coming days. Topics ranging from ‘potential areas of conflict and litigation under GST’ to ‘comparative analysis of concepts: GST vis-a-vis Central Excise, Service Tax and VAT’, were discussed. The deliberations took place at a recent national judicial conference for high court judges on the GST regime organised by the Bhopal-based National Judicial Academy. The conference assumes significance as litigations have already started surfacing before various courts. During the 3-day exercise, judges from Allahabad, Andhra Pradesh, Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Madras high courts interacted with nine resource persons on various issues related to the GST set-up.
The resources persons included officials from GST Intelligence and CBEC drawn from across India, according to the documents. A senior law ministry official said the Academy had discussed the GST issue in one of its programmes in 2015. “The academy had been sensitising judiciary about the new tax regime,” he said. Last week, the Delhi High Court had asked the Centre that if bindi, sindoor and kajal are kept out of the ambit of the GST, why cannot the sanitary napkin, which is an essential item, be exempted. A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said sanitary napkins are a necessity and there cannot be any explanation for taxing them and exempting other items by bringing them in the category of necessity.
The court expressed unhappiness over absence of any women in the 31-member GST council. The court was hearing a petition challenging the levying of 12 per cent GST on sanitary napkins. The plea has termed it illegal and unconstitutional. The central government standing counsel Sanjeev Narula said that if they will exempt sanitary napkins from tax, the cost of the product will go up.