The RTI response only stated that relevant information is available on the PM CARES website.

PM CARES fund does not come under RTI Act Prime Ministers Office
Coronavirus PM CARES Sunday, May 31, 2020 - 12:15

The Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES), created for COVID-19 relief at the end of March, is not a public authority, a request through the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the Prime Minister’s Office has revealed.

RTI requests, filed by advocate Abhay Gupta and LLM (Master of Law) student Sri Harsha Kandukuri, which sought details of the PM CARES fund, was met with only one response — “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."

Harsha had asked for copies of the trust deed of the PM CARES fund, and all government orders, notifications and circulars related to its creation and operation. Abhay had asked for details of the fund, total amount deposited till date, total amount deposited in the last two months, PAN details for the account, how much has been spent from the fund, and the details of the person who has donated the most money to the fund.

Section 2(h) of the RTI Act states that a public authority is any body of self-government established under the constitution, by any law made by Parliament or state legislature, by notification made by the appropriate government. As per the Act, it also covers organisations that are financed substantially by the government, and substantially financed non-governmental organisations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the ex-officio Chairman of the PM CARES Fund, and the Minister of Defence, Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Finance, Government of India are ex-officio Trustees of the Fund.

Speaking to LiveLaw, Harsha said that he would be filing a statutory appeal.

"By denying PM CARES fund the status of 'public authority', it is only reasonable to infer that it is not controlled by the government. If that is the case, who is controlling it? The name, composition of the trust, control, usage of emblem, government domain name everything signifies that it is a public authority,” he told LiveLaw.

When an RTI request for details of the PM CARES fund was filed in April, the office of the PMO wrote: “It is not open to the applicant under the RTI Act to bundle a series of requests into one application unless these requests are treated separately and paid for accordingly.”

NDTV reported that the fund will not be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General, as the fund is based on donations of individuals. “Unless the trustees ask us to audit, we will not be auditing the accounts," a senior official in the CAG told NDTV.

So far, a sum of Rs 3,100 crore has been allocated from the fund towards COVID-19 — Rs 2,000 crore for purchasing ventilators, Rs 1,000 crore for the care of migrant labourers and Rs 100 crores to support vaccine development.

Earlier this month, data compiled by the Times of India put the total amount collected at Rs 10,600 crore in less than two months of the fund being launched. The actual corpus could be larger, the report stated. 

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