NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Thursday dismissed a PIL seeking directions to the Centre to include masks and hand sanitizers in the list of essential commodities during COVID-19 pandemic and also reduce the GST applicable on them, saying these were policy decisions.
A bench of Chief Justice D N Patek and Justice Prateek Jalan also said the PIL was "without any substance" as it does not show that the masks and hand sanitizers are not easily available or are being sold at exorbitant prices by traders for them to be included in the list of essential commodities.
"Which items are to be included under the Essential Commodities Act is a policy decision.
This court will be extremely slow in interfering with a policy decision of the Government of India.
"Inclusion of essential commodities under the Act is a complex decision based on a variety of factors like availability and pricing.
If in the opinion of the government masks and hand sanitizers are easily available, then there is no need to regulate supply of such commodities," the bench said.
On the issue of reduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST) on these two items, the court said it will not interfere in tax matters unless it is shown that the same was "patently confiscatory" in nature and in the instant matter nothing like that has been shown.
"Merely because the petitioner feels GST rate is excessive cannot be a reason for reducing it.
There is no substance in the writ petition and it is dismissed," the court said.
The petition was moved by one Gaurav Yadav who had said that the Centre on March 2020 issued a notification to include masks and hand sanitizers in the list of essential commodities.
However, it was in effect only till June 30, the plea had said and added that there was an apprehension that traders might increase the prices of these two items.
The bench said the apprehension was unfounded as market forces would regulate the prices of the two commodities.
It also said that too much regulation of commodities was also not required and unless there is a cogent need, such items are not required to be included in list of essential commodities.
The bench also said that it was a "conscious policy decision" on the part of the government not to extend the March 2020 notification beyond June 30 and therefore, it was not going to direct the Centre to do so.