New Delhi/ Vivek Shukla: This is a massive submission. The charitable fund ‘Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund)’ that has the Prime Minister of India as its ex-officio Chairman, and Minister of Defence, Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Finance as ex-officio trustees, has said that it is not a fund of Govt of India. Interestingly, the domain name of the PM-CARES fund uses the 'gov.in' extension that only a govt body can use. Not just this, PM-CARES head office is being operated from the Prime Minister’s Office, South Block, New Delhi, still PM-CARES has maintained that it is not a fund of the Government of India.
'PM-CARES not govt fund, does not come under RTI'
On Thursday, PM-CARES told Delhi High Court that the trust’s fund is not a fund of the Government of India and its amount does not go in the Consolidated Fund of India. “Irrespective of whether the trust is a “State” or other authority within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution of India and or whether it is a ‘public authority’ within the meaning of section 2[h] of Right to Information Act, Section 8 in general and that of provisions contained in subsection [e] and [j], in particular, of the Right to Information Act, it is not permissible to disclose third party information,” Pradeep Kumar Srivastava, an Under Secretary at the PMO said in a reply.
PSUs, Armed Forces donated thousands of crores into PM-CARES
According to figures for December 2020, PSUs Contributed Over Rs 150 Crore to PM-CARES From Staff Salaries. This is in addition to the Rs 2,400 crore that several PSUs have donated to the body through their corporate social responsibility funds. Not just this, Armed Forces too donated their one-day salaries into PM-CARES fund that runs into hundreds of crores. PMO has clearly said that the receipt and expenditure information of the fund can not be disclosed under RTI.
The submission was made in response to a petition seeking that PM-CARES Fund be declared as ‘The State’ under Article 12 of the Constitution. The plea contends that citizens of the country are aggrieved that a fund set up by the Prime Minister and with trustees like the PM and ministers of Home, Defence and Finance has been declared to be a fund over which there is no government control.
It said all donations received by the trust are through online payments, cheques and or demand drafts. The amount so received is audited and the expenditure of the trust fund is displayed on the website, it said. However, the website https://www.pmcares.gov.in/ does not divulge the details of expenditure after 2019-20.
“In view of the specific provisions of Section 8 of the Right to Information Act, the relief against para 5.3 of the trust deed dated 27.3.2020 pales into insignificance,” Srivastava further said, referring to a prayer against a paragraph in the trust deed which states that it was not created by or under the Constitution or by any law made by Parliament or state Assembly.
The petition filed by Samyak Gangwal states that the PM-CARES Fund was formed by the Prime Minister in March 2020 for the noble purpose of extending assistance to the citizens in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and huge donations were received by it. However, the plea said, a copy of the trust deed was released by the PM-CARES Fund on its website in December 2020, according to which it is not created by or under the Constitution or by any law made by Parliament.
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