Centre Defends PM CARES Fund in Supreme Court, Asks for PIL to be Dismissed

by Sidharth Pandey 3 weeks ago Views 1354
The Centre on Thursday defended the PM CARES fund in the Supreme Court and maintained that donations to the fund were ‘voluntary’ and that the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) before the Supreme Court should be dismissed. The Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) had filed the PIL seeking transfer of all funds in the PM CARES Fund to the National Disaster Response Fund which was set up under the Disaster management Act of 2005.

The CPIL has argued that while the NDRF was set up under an Act passed by Parliament and its accounts are auditable, the funds and their spending under the PM CARES Fund cannot be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) and neither is the information about the funds accessible under the Right to Information Act.

Also Read: Rampant Killing of Elephants in India Must Be Prevented 

It is estimated that in May alone, contributions to the fund have crossed 1 billion US dollars. No details are available to how the funds have been spent.

The fund was set up in March this year and the website hosted on the official government of India website ( https://www.pmcares.gov.in/en/) maintains that it was set up as a charitable public trust with an aim to “having a dedicated national fund with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation, like posed by the COVID-19”. While the Prime Minister is the ex-officio chairman, the ministers of defence, home and finance are its ex-officio trustees.

Several petitions have been filed in High Courts seeking greater transparency into the workings of the fund. Transparency seekers have also sought that the details of the funds be made more transparent under the Right to Information Act (RTI) 2005. So far, all requests for information under the RTI Act have been turned down by the central government, including RTIs filed by GoNews with the note that the PM CARES Fund does not come under the RTI Act. 

“PM CARES Fund is not a Public Authority under the ambit of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005. However, relevant information in respect of PM CARES Fund may be seen on the Website-pmcares.gov.in”: CPIO-PMO

Most transparency seekers, however, say that the fact that the PM CARES fund which was set up for a public cause, endorsed and managed by the PM in his official capacity as the Ex-officio chairman- endorsements by the PM and government seeking donations to the fund and income tax rebate given to donors etc. all clearly make the case why the PM CARES Fund has to be under the Right to Information Act and why details must be shared with the public. GoNews earlier spoke to transparency seekers and disaster management experts on their views on the controversy.

This is what they had to say:

 

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