The petitioner has sought to declare the PM CARES Fund a ''State'' under the Constitution and a ''public authority'' under the RTI Act to ensure transparency in its functioning.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi standing with folded handsFile Photo/PTI
news Court Friday, October 29, 2021 - 17:40

The Delhi High Court on Friday, October 29, agreed to hear a plea related to the Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund) on November 18. The matter was earlier scheduled for November 30. A bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh allowed early hearing of the petitions filed by Samyak Gangwal, who sought to declare the PM CARES Fund a "State" under the Constitution and a ''public authority'' under the Right To Information Act to ensure transparency in its functioning.

The petitioner also sought to restrain the PM CARES Fund from using Prime Minister of India or Prime Minister including its abbreviations in its name, and on its website. The petitioner also sought to prevent the PM CARES Fund from using the State Emblem of India on its website, Trust Deed other official/unofficial communications and advertisements.

In response to the petition, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) submitted before the court that the PM CARES Fund comprises voluntary donations made by individuals and institutions and is not a part of business or function of the Union government in any manner. Furthermore, it is not a part of any government scheme or business of the Union government and being a public trust, it is also not subject to audit of Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), the PMO said.

In another petition, Gangwal has challenged the decision of the Central Public Information Officer and PMO wherein the RTI application seeking documents related to the PM CARES Fund was denied.

According to the Union government’s submissions, PM CARES Fund is not a "public authority" under the ambit of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, the PMO said, further stating that no government money is credited in the PM CARES Fund and only unconditional and voluntary contributions are accepted under PM CARES Fund. "It is reiterated that the Trust's fund is not a fund of the Government of India and the amount does not go in the Consolidated Fund of India," said an affidavit filed by the PMO.

The affidavit added that to ensure transparency, the audited report is put on the official website of the Trust along with the details of utilisation of funds received by the Trust. The Union government further said that the Trust functions on the principles of transparency and public good in larger public interest like any other charitable trust and, therefore, cannot have any objection in uploading all its resolutions on its website to ensure transparency. Such a prayer is not only unheard of but is legally not maintainable, it said while urging the Delhi High Court to dismiss the petition.

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