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Case Law Details

Case Name : Amrutha S. Vs Union of India (Kerala High Court)
Appeal Number : IA No. 1/2024
Date of Judgement/Order : 15/03/2024
Related Assessment Year :

Amrutha S. Vs Union of India (Kerala High Court)

Introduction: In a heartwarming decision, the Kerala High Court provided interim relief to a mother seeking exemption from the payment of Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) on imported medicine for her child suffering from a rare disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). The case of Amrutha S. Vs Union of India sheds light on the compassionate aspect of judicial intervention in cases involving critical medical needs.

Detailed Analysis: Amrutha S., the petitioner, approached the Kerala High Court seeking relief from the payment of IGST on the import of ‘Risdiplam’ medicine, also known by its brand name ‘Evrysdi,’ which is essential for the treatment of her three-year-old child afflicted with SMA. The petitioner invoked Article 279A(4) of the Indian Constitution, which empowers the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council to recommend exemptions for certain goods and services from GST levy.

Referring to Circular No. 09/2014-Customs and the 26th GST Council meeting minutes, the petitioner argued that the Union Finance Minister holds the authority to grant ad hoc exemptions from IGST on imported goods, especially medicines for life-threatening diseases. Despite pending consideration of the petitioner’s exemption application, the urgent need for the medicine compelled the petitioner to seek interim relief from the court.

After hearing arguments from both parties, the Kerala High Court recognized the petitioner’s dire situation and her eligibility for IGST exemption as per relevant circulars and constitutional provisions. Considering the urgency of the matter and the absence of a response to the petitioner’s exemption application, the court issued an interim order allowing the petitioner to procure the medicine without paying GST.

The court directed the supplier to issue a bill of supply in compliance with GST laws, emphasizing that the arrangement was provisional and subject to further modifications or directions if necessary. The court’s decision reflects a compassionate approach to addressing urgent medical needs, especially in cases involving life-threatening diseases.

Conclusion: The Kerala High Court’s decision in the case of Amrutha S. Vs Union of India underscores the judiciary’s role in providing relief to individuals facing critical medical challenges. By granting interim exemption from IGST on imported medicine for SMA treatment, the court exemplified the humane aspect of judicial intervention, prioritizing the well-being of vulnerable individuals in society. This ruling sets a precedent for compassionate jurisprudence, emphasizing the importance of empathy and urgency in addressing medical emergencies through legal means.

FULL TEXT OF THE JUDGMENT/ORDER OF KERALA HIGH COURT

The petitioner is the mother of a three-year-old child suffering from a life-threatening disease, namely ‘Spinal Muscular Atrophy’ (SMA). The only medicine currently available for treating this ailment is ‘Risdiplam’ (brand name ‘Evrysdi’), a medicine imported from a company known as F-Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd, Switzerland. The petitioner is sourcing the medicine from the additional 6th respondent.

2. The writ petition has been filed stating that, by virtue of the provisions contained in Article 279A(4) of the Constitution of India, it is open to the Goods and Services Tax Council to make recommendations regarding the goods and services that may be exempted from the  levy of Goods and Services Tax. It is pointed out that, as per Ext.P7 Minutes of the 26th GST Council meeting held on 10-03-2018, it was decided that the Union Finance Minister is competent to grant ad hoc exemption from IGST payable on imported goods as per the guidelines laid down in Circular No.09/2014-Customs dated 19-08-2014. The Circular referred to above is on record as Ext.P8. It is pointed out by the learned counsel for the petitioner that paragraph No.5 of Ext.P8 Circular refers explicitly to the import of medicines for the treatment of individuals suffering from life-threatening diseases, which can be considered for exemption on a case-to-case basis. It is submitted that the present price of ‘Risdiplam(brand name ‘Evrysdi’) is Rs.6.07 Lakh per bottle, including 12% GST, as can be seen from Exts.P3 and P4 series of bills. It is submitted that Ext.P5 application for exemption in terms of Ext.P7 r/w the provisions of Ext.P8 Circular is pending consideration of the Union Finance Minister. It is submitted that pending consideration of Ext.P5, the petitioner may be permitted to purchase ‘Risdiplam’ (brand name ‘Evrysdi’) from the additional 6th respondent. without payment of any GST.

3. Having heard the learned counsel for the petitioner and the learned Deputy Solicitor General of India appearing for respondent Nos.1 and 3, I am of the opinion that the petitioner is entitled to an interim order permitting the petitioner to purchase the drug ‘Risdiplam’ (brand name ‘Evrysdi’) from the additional 6th respondent. without of payment of GST. It is clear from the terms of Ext.P.8 Circular r/w Ext.P.7 minutes of the GST Council and the provisions of Article 279A(4) of the Constitution of India that the Union Finance Minister is competent to consider the grant of exemption from IGST for the import of medicines for individuals who are suffering from life-threatening diseases. The case of the petitioner appears to be eminently qualified for the grant of such exemption. Ext.P.5 application for exemption is dated 17-10-2023 and has not been favoured with any reply. In such circumstances, it is only appropriate that suitable directions be issued by this Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.

Accordingly, it is directed that the petitioner will be entitled to purchase the drug Risdiplam (brand name Evrysdi) from the additional 6th respondent without payment of GST. The additional 6th respondent is permitted to issue a bill of supply as contemplated by Section 31(3)(c) of the Central Goods & Services Tax Act / State Goods & Services Tax Act. This arrangement shall be provisional, and it will be open to the additional 6th respondent to apply to this Court for further modifications/directions regarding any difficulty it may face in supplying the goods as directed. This Court places on record its appreciation for the assistance rendered to this Court by Sri. A. Kumar, learned Senior Advocate, who was present in Court when this case was taken up.

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