Affordable and Independent Mobility for Persons with Disabilities in India – Challenges & Way Forward (series 1 of 3)
– By Subhash Chandra Vashishth
This article is being presented in 3 series. Series 1 focuses on GST concessions on purchase of cars by persons with physical disabilities and why it must be extended to all categories of disabilities.
On 4 Dec. 2020, a report was featured in a leading news portal informing that Renault India would be offering the concessional GST rate of 18%, as directed by Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Heavy Industries towards persons with disabilities who wish to buy its car. Renault added that it would also offer additional special segment discounts through its entire dealer network in the country.
While internal corporate discounts and other offers for potential buyers with disabilities are commendable, but the news report was nothing more than a marketing gimmick giving a presentation as if Renault India was giving a 10% GST waiver to attract disabled buyers. Many people with disabilities may have wrongly even believed that report. But the fact is that it is the Govt. of India which has made provisions for the GST waiver on Petrol, LPG, CNG cars under 1200 cc (1500 cc for Diesel variants) for vehicles not exceeding 4000 mm length of any make being sold in the Indian market.
Enabling changes in policies by Govt. of India
A. GST Waiver to 4 wheelers used by Persons with orthopaedic disabilities.
After the notification of Ministry of Finance dated 30th September 2019, the GST concessions are now available for not just adapted cars but also automatic variants of the car which may be driven by certain categories of persons with disabilities without any adaptation.
The system of buying the vehicle at market rate and later applying for GST refunds has been stopped. To avail the GST concession, the applicant now has to apply in advance, before the purchase of vehicle to the Ministry of Heavy Industries seeking a certificate with necessary documents. A person with disability availing this certificate will have to pay only 18% GST and no cess instead of 28% GST and applicable cess on purchase of car.
On 22 Oct, 2020, the government notified amendments to the motor vehicle rules for clearly incorporating ownership details in registration documents, a move aimed to help car buyers with disabilities. The step was taken after it was brought to the notice of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) that the ownership details are not properly reflected in various forms under Central Motor Vehicles Rules required for registration of motor vehicles.
Under the amended forms, ownership details will be captured under categories like autonomous body, central government, charitable trust, driving training school, persons with disabilities, educational institute, local authority, multiple owners, police department, etc.
As per MoRTH, “Benefits of GST and other concessions are being provided to the persons with disabilities under various schemes of the government for the purchase/ownership/operation of motor vehicles.”
In previous rules under the Central Motor Vehicles Rules (CMVR) 1989, the ownership type did not reflect the details of persons with disabilities. It was thus difficult for them to properly avail various benefits under government schemes.
|GST Waiver and Other Benefits for Car Buyers with Disabilities as per the revised guidelines issued on 21 April 2020|
|Who can benefit:||Any Orthopaedic Physically disabled person having permanent disability of 40% and above|
|Type of Car:||Cars (automatic or manual) having length less than or equal to 4m and engine capacity of not more than 1200 cc (petrol) or 1500 cc (diesel)|
|GST waiver:||10% on GST waiver can be availed through GST certificate and zero cess would be applicable. A person availing this certificate will have to pay 18% GST and no cess instead of 28% GST and applicable cess on purchase of car. Department of Heavy Industries (DHI) certificate will be valid for 3 months. Issuance of Certificate may take 4 weeks’ time.|
|Caution:||Apply for the GST benefit before purchase of the vehicles. GST refund after the vehicle is purchased would not be possible.|
|Where to apply:||www.dhi.nic.in (schemes>GST concession to PWDS)|
|Documents Required for GST waiver:||Duly filled annexures A, B, C (legible documents); Copy of Aadhar; Copy of Disability Certificate (Not required if you have Unique Disability Card or Disability Card issued by State Govt having details of degree and type of disability); A Declaration stating that they have not availed such benefits in last 5 years and will not dispose of the vehicle in coming 5 years ; Name of car model, details of dealer and details of RTO.|
|Note:||1. Information of purchase and registration number details have to be sent to DHI within 30 days from the date of purchase|
|2. All such vehicles will be mandatorily registered as ‘Adapted’ vehicles as per the new Motor Vehicles Act 2019.|
B. Exemption from paying Toll Tax
Earlier the 100% toll tax exemption was only given to modified vehicles dubbed as ‘Invalid Carriage (now renamed as Adapted Vehicle in the new Motor Vehicle Act 2019)’ in the Vehicle Registration Certificate (RC). The Govt. of India has, vide its notification issued on 30 Dec. 2020, extended the same exemption from paying toll tax while crossing state borders across India, to all vehicles “registered with Ownership type as “DIVYANGJAN” under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (59 of 1988) and the rules made there under.” This is definitely a welcome step which will bring relief to people with disabilities.
Why GST & other concessions only for orthopaedic disabilities?
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 provides coverage to 21 identified disabilities. However, currently the GST waiver in buying a car and other concessions are only provided for buyers with orthopaedic disabilities who may be self-drivers or being driven by others. It is a universal fact that all people with disabilities face some kind of mobility challenges. The law identifies any person with 40% or more disability of the 21 disabling conditions given in the schedule to the Act, as a person with benchmark disability. It doesn’t discriminate among the different categories of disabilities. Therefore, many users with other benchmark disabilities have been demanding that these concessions be extended to them as well under the provisions of the Act. A blind person may also own a vehicle in his name and be driven by a chauffeur to enhance his/ her mobility like a person with physical disabilities. Can he/she be denied the benefits and exemptions? The current policy seems arbitrary and therefore, needs a reconsideration in the spirit of the RPWD Act.
Court of CCPD recommends against discrimination to people with other disabilities in GST waiver:
In response to several complaints filed by persons with vision and hearing impairments not being considered for GST waiver for purchase of a car, the Court of Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD) noted in its recent order that every person with disabilities irrespective of their disability may face some challenges in driving a vehicle. Therefore, offering GST waiver to just one category (orthopaedic disability) is not appropriate; it should be given to persons having any type of disability.
In para 3.5 of its Order, Court of CCPD notes, “….orthopaedic disabilities do not form a class in themselves and giving GST concession to persons with orthopaedic disability alone cannot be said to be proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. Hence, this practice constitutes violation of equality rights of persons belonging to other PWD Categories as guaranteed under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act, 2016.”
The Court thus recommended, “…the respondents i.e. the Department of Heavy Industry, Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises and Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance, Union of India shall amend necessary rules in order to give concessions in GST, road tax, toll tax to all persons belonging to PwD category, irrespective of types of disabilities they have.”
GST Waivers for Two Wheelers?
Many persons with disabilities can’t afford or simply don’t find the car to be convenient and prefer an adapted two wheeler to enhance their mobility. They purchase a two wheeler and spend a substantial amount on modification to add two additional wheels for enhancing their mobility. However, at present, there is no GST or Road Tax concessions for purchasing the two wheelers. Bringing the two wheelers also in the same ambit will benefit a large group who mostly depend on adapted two wheelers.
Though the government has announced GST and other concessions, it has been complained by many stakeholders with disabilities that they face harassment and delays in getting the GST certificate and related documents, many a time after raising a litigation. Complaints have also been raised about non-cooperation from the Car Dealers when it comes to availing of the GST.
……. article continues in series 2 where issues of lack of accessible vehicles in India; challenges of modified vehicles and the way forward are discussed.
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