The Supreme Court on Friday held that white petroleum jelly or popularly known as Vaseline was a drug and not a cosmetic even if it had no curative value, thus could be taxed at the rate of 12 per cent under the UP Trade Tax Act.
A bench headed by Justice S B Sinha while allowing a petition filed by Pond's India (merged with Hindustan Unilever) ruled that Vaseline was a pharmaceutical preparation as it was used for cure and treatment of various skin disorders and not for beautification or care of the skin in the normal circumstances. it cannot be a drug within the meaning of the provisions of the UP Trade Tax Act.
The Income Tax Appellate Tribunal for assessment years 1990-91, 1991-92, 1992-93 had held that Vaseline white petroleum jelly should be taxed at the rate of 12 per cent as "cosmetics and toilet preparation".
However, the Allahabad High Court had dismissed the Ponds petition against the tribunal's order on October 2005.
According to the apex court, a drug as defined in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 would not only include a medicine which is used for external use of human beings, but also if used for prevention of any disease or disorder in human beings.
"The said definition is an extensive one. It even applies to preparations applied on human body for the purpose of killing insects like mosquitoes, which per se does not have any medicinal or any value for curing any disease or disorder in human beings," the court said.
While stating that the petroleum jelly was treated to be a "drug", the judgement said that a license was required for its production, it also finds place in Indian Pharmacopeia and does not contain any perfume. "A cosmetic ordinarily would contain some perfume," Justice Sinha said.