By Amiya Kumar Kushwaha
New Delhi [India], May 21 (ANI): The Delhi High Court on Friday said that "this is a George Floyd moment for the citizens of this country," saying the citizenry has been driven to desperation and despair chased by merciless coronavirus and the "scarcity" in treatment of COVID-19 has brought out the best and worst in people.
The observations of division bench of Justices Rajiv Shakdher and Talwant Singh came while stating that imposition of Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) on the import of oxygen concentrators as a gift for personal use is "unconstitutional" and quashed the related official notification.
"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 said.
"Scarcity of liquid medical oxygen (LMO), medicines, oxygen concentrators, hospital beds, ventilators, and other medical equipment, crucial for battling against the infection caused by the virus, has brought out the best and worst in people," the court added.
The court lauded by the work done by the health care workers and volunteers.
"We have messiahs. We have charlatans. We have hoarders. We have seen kind and caring hand being struck out by strangers when they could have remained cocooned in the safety of their houses. Brave hearts, there are many doctors, nurses, and personnel manning public institutions.
"These are people who are at the forefront of this battle, staking their lives, so that the common man could live, beating this adversary, that is, the virus is their only goal. There is, thus, in this litigation, no adversary other than the virus.
"We hold that imposition of IGST on oxygen concentrators which are imported by individuals and are received by them as gifts (i.e. free of cost) for personal use, is unconstitutional," the court said.
It said to obviate misuse of the oxygen concentrators, by the petitioner and or persons in similar circumstances, they would have to furnish a letter of undertaking to the officer designated by the state that the same would not be put to commercial use.
"The petitioner would thus submit a letter of undertaking within seven days of the state intimating/notifying the particulars of the officer designated for this purpose," the court said.
It also directed the registry to release the money, deposited with it, by the petitioner, along with interest, if any accrued, at the earliest.
The court order came while hearing a plea seeking exemption on imposition of IGST on the import of oxygen generators as gift for personal use.
The petition was filed by 85-year-old Gurcharan Singh through caregiver and grandson Ankit Sahni. Singh is suffering from COVID-19 infection.
Singh's nephew Raj Gupta is a resident of the United States. In order to ameliorate the condition of the petitioner, Gupta had sent an oxygen concentrator as a gift by air cargo for Singh's personal use.
Earlier, the Delhi High Court had appointed senior counsel Arvind Datar as amicus curiae to assist the court on the plea.
Sudhir Nandrajog, senior counsel, who appeared for the petitioner, sought ad-interim direction for enabling import of the oxygen concentrator, as, in its clearance, impediments are likely to arise at the customs barrier, on account of the impugned notification.
He submitted that the oxygen concentrator should be cleared upon the petitioner depositing, with the court, an amount equivalent to the IGST presently payable in consonance with the provisions of the impugned notification.
Nandrajog said the impugned notification, if implemented, would force the petitioner to pay the IGST of 12 per cent on Rs 89,550.
The petitioner said impugned notification was violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution as it is infringing the right to life of patients suffering from the COVID-19 infection. (ANI)