By LE Desk

New Delhi, April 29: A group of advocates moved the Supreme Court today seeking a direction to the Centre and the Office of the GST Council Secretariat to let go of their “apathy” and exempt COVID-19 drugs and equipment from the GST regime with “immediate effect” in public interest.

The petition filed by The Public Policy Advocates, represented by advocate Astha Sharma, asked whether the GST authorities and government officials concerned were unable to see people run from pillar to post trying to procure drugs, oxygen, equipment and hospital beds to save their loved ones.

The plea said the court should direct the GST Council “to convene a meeting expeditiously and direct exemption of GST with respect to COVID-19 related drugs, including, but not limited to, Remdesivir, Tocilizumab, Favipiravir and other drugs with similar generic constitution, medical equipment, including, but not limited to, ventilators and Bipap machines, and other medical treatment for infection prevention, control measures and supportive care for COVID-19 patients, including, but not limited to, medical grade oxygen, oxygen concentrators, etc.”.

The petition said the Centre is empowered under public interest to exempt GST in accordance with Section 11 of the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017, Section 6 of the Integrated Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017, and the corresponding equivalent sections in the State legislations governing States Goods and Services, The Hindu reported.

The step is necessary considering the “onset of the double mutant virus variant which was first identified around March-end of 2021, the rate of infection, the positivity rate, as well as the rate of hospitalisation for those requiring critical treatment have all increased exponentially”.

It took 63 days for cases to rise from 8,000 on February 2 to 1,03,558 as of April 5. In one day alone i.e. April 26, over 3.2 lakh cases were reported and the number of deaths crossed over 2,000 over a period of seven days as per the official data released by the government. The number of infected persons in the country was estimated at 3.8 lakh and number of deaths are reported to be about 3,645 as on April 28. This being the highest single day rise in the number of COVID-19 positive cases and number of deaths recorded in India.

“The increase in cases brings with itself the inevitable financial burden on the families of the patients coupled with inadequate and intermittent supply of such medical drugs and equipment which are deemed crucial for the purposes of treatment for Covid 19,” the petition said.

The GST Council’s move to exempt would make it more affordable for citizens to provide the necessities required, including hospital beds, oxygen cylinders and essential medical drugs, for their loved ones, the petition said.

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