The Supreme Court said funds collected by the PM Cares Fund are entirely different and that these are funds of charitable trusts.
Money collected under the PM CARES Fund for the coronavirus pandemic cannot be transferred to National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), the Supreme Court said today, adding that it cannot direct the government to do so and that funds collected by the PM Cares Fund are entirely different and that these are funds of charitable trusts. The government is free to transfer money to the disaster response fund if it feels appropriate to do so, the top court said.
Any contribution or grant can be credited to the NDRF and anyone can contribute to this fund as a voluntary contribution, the top court said as it heard a petition against the PM CARES fund by an NGO called Centre for Public Interest Litigation, seeking a direction that all present and future fund collections contributions and grants under the PM CARES Fund for the COVID-19 pandemic should be transferred to National Disaster Response Fund. The petition said PM CARES fund violates the provisions of Disaster Management Act.
The court also said there is no need for a new plan and that one under the National Disaster Management Act is enough to deal with COVID-19.
Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund was set up by the centre on March 28 to deal with any kind of emergency situation like the one currently posed by the pandemic and provide relief to those affected. The Prime Minister is the ex-officio chairman of the fund and the defence, home and finance ministers are ex-officio trustees.
A three-judge bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah delivered the verdict today through video-conferencing.
“Supreme Court of India upholds the validity of #PMCaresFund. Refuses to instruct government to transfer fund to NDRF. Hope that should send out a message… loud and clear,” Union Minister Jitendra Singh tweeted soon after the verdict.
Lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan too reacted to the verdict.
The Congress and others have questioned the legal validity of the fund and questioned the need for it, pointing to the similar Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF).
Concerns have also been raised over corporate social responsibility benefits denied to contributions to state disaster relief funds, and the fact the fund is not under the audit of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
The centre has defended the PM CARES Fund, saying it is a voluntary fund while budgetary allocations took care of the disaster response fund. It argued that just because the latter exists does not prohibit the creation of the PM Cares Fund for voluntary donations.