The Central government has informed the Delhi High Court that the PM CARES Fund is “not a fund of Government of India and the amount does not go in the Consolidated Fund of India”.
The affidavit filed by an Under Secretary at Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said the PM CARES Fund is a charitable trust not created by or under the Constitution of India or by any law made by the Parliament or by any State legislature.
Under Secretary Pradeep Kumar Srivastava said despite being an officer of the Central government, he was permitted to discharge his functions in PM CARES Trust on an honorary basis.
Mr. Srivastava said the PM CARES functions with transparency and its funds are audited by an auditor who is a Chartered Accountant drawn from the panel prepared by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
“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 Under Secretary said. The Centre’s affidavit came in response to a petition filed by Samyak Gangwal before the high court seeking to declare PM CARES as a ‘public authority’ under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
It said irrespective of whether the trust is a ‘State’ or other authority within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution or whether it is a ‘public authority’ within the meaning of provisions of the Right to Information Act (RTI), it is not permissible to disclose third party information.
“When the petitioner is claiming to be a public-spirited person and seeking to pray for various reliefs only for transparency, it does not matter whether PM CARES is a “State” within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution of India,” the Centre said.
The Centre, additionally, said the PM CARES functions on the principles of transparency and public good in larger public interest like any other charitable trust and does not have any objection in uploading all its resolutions on its website to ensure transparency.
Mr. Gangwal, in his plea, stated that the PM CARES Fund was formed by the Prime Minister on March 27, 2020 to extend assistance to the citizens of India in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The petitioner is not attributing or even alleging any wrongdoing whatsoever on the part of the present Ex-Officio Trustees of the PM CARES Fund. However, since the PM CARES Fund’s Trustees are high government functionaries, it is essential that checks and balances envisioned in Part III of the Constitution are put in the place on the functioning of the fund to extinguish any chance of an allegation of ‘quid pro quo’,” the plea said.
The plea had argued that if the court concluded that the PM CARES Fund is not a ‘State’ under the Constitution, usage of the domain name ‘gov’, the Prime Minister’s photograph, State emblem, among others, has to stop. A Bench of Chief Justice D. N. Patel and Justice Amit Bansal will hear the case on September 27.