The Right to Information Act is not applicable to the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund, as the Trust does not qualify as a “public authority” defined under the Act, the central government informed the Delhi High Court in an affidavit filed on Tuesday.
The affidavit further stated that the PM CARES Fund has not been created under the Constitution of India or by any law made by Parliament or state legislature. “This Trust is neither intended to be nor is in fact owned, controlled or substantially financed by any Government nor any instrumentality of the Government. There is no control of either the Central Government or any State Governments, either direct or indirect, in the functioning of the Trust in any manner whatsoever,” it adds.
The Centre’s submission before the High Court came on a plea seeking greater transparency in the functioning of the PM CARES Fund. The Centre had filed a one-page reply in the court, which had left the court displeased. The detailed affidavit filed on Tuesday is subsequent to the reply filed by the Centre in July last year.
The Centre further said in its response that the composition of the Board of Trustees consisting of holders of Public Office ex Officio is “merely for administrative convenience and for smooth succession to the Trusteeship”. The Union Home Minister and the Union Finance Minister, along with Ratan Tata, the former chairman of Tata Sons, KT Thomas, former Judge, Supreme Court, and Kariya Munda, Former Deputy Speaker constitute the Board of Trustees of the PM Cares fund.
While the petitioners have argued that the PM CARES Fund has been projected as a government fund and point out that “high functionaries of the government like the Vice-President had requested the Rajya Sabha members to make donations”, the government has countered the argument calling the PM CARES Fund a “public charitable trust”, which only accepts voluntary donations.
The PM CARES Fund is not a business of the central government and does not receive funds or finances from it. “The PM CARES Fund is administered on the pattern of PMNRF as both are chaired by the Prime Minister,” it said, noting that the fund uses the National Emblem and the domain name ‘http://gov.in’ because they are used by the PMNRF.
Set up on April 1, 2020, The PM CARES Fund intends to receive charitable contributions to deal with emergency situations like the Covid-19 outbreak.
(With inputs from Live Law)