Pradeep Kumar Srivastava, an Under-Secretary at the PMO, informed the Delhi High Court that it's not bound to disclose third party information under the Right to Information Act.
The Centre has informed the Delhi High Court that Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situation Fund (PM-CARES Fund) is not a fund controlled by the Government of India and it is a charitable trust under the law, therefore, its amount does not go in the Consolidated Fund of India. The Centre stated this in response to a plea filed in the High Court seeking that PM-CARES Fund should be declared as ‘The State’ under Article 12 of the Constitution.
Pradeep Kumar Srivastava, an Under-Secretary at the PMO, informed the Delhi High Court that it’s not bound to disclose third party information under the Right to Information Act. “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,” said Srivastava.
The petition in the High Court also contends that while the fund was set up by the Prime Minister and ministers of Home, Defence and Finance are its trustees, it has been declared to be a fund which is not controlled by the government and citizens are aggrieved with this.
In his reply, Srivastava also informed the court that he holds an honorary post in the trust and it functions with transparency. He claimed that the PM-Cares fund is audited by a Chartered Accountant who is a part of the panel constituted by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
Srivastava further told the court that the audit report is uploaded on the official website of the trust to ensure transparency.
The petitioner had also highlighted that a paragraph in the trust deed says the fund was not created by or under the Constitution or by any law made by Parliament or state Assembly. To this, Srivastava informed, “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”.