SC Seeks Centre’s Response On Plea To Transfer PM CARES Funds To National Disaster Response Fund

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The Supreme Court Wednesday sought response from the Centre on a plea seeking a direction that all the contributions made for COVID-19 pandemic by individuals and institutions should be credited to the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) rather than to the PM CARES Fund.

The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) alleged that the Centre has been “refraining from divulging information about the specific utilization of crores of rupees that have been contributed to the PM CARES Fund till date”.

It also sought a direction for the government to prepare, notify and implement a national plan under the Disaster Management Act to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, S K Kaul and M R Shah, issued notice to the Centre and sought its response within two weeks on the plea filed by NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), which has sought a direction that all the contributions till date in the PM CARES Fund “may be directed to be transferred” to the NDRF.

The plea, filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, has also sought a direction to the Centre to utilise NDRF for the purpose of providing assistance in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic in compliance with the provision of the Disaster Management Act.

It has also sought a direction to the Centre to lay down minimum standards of relief under the Disaster Management Act to be provided to persons affected by coronavirus as well as by the lockdown.

“Section 11 of the DM Act makes it mandatory for a national plan to be drawn up for disaster management for whole of the country but currently, there is no such national plan in place to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic even though the same has been notified as a ‘disaster’ and numerous notifications are being issued to contain the same under the DM Act,” the plea has said.

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It said that the national plan needs to be prepared after due consultation with the state governments as well as the experts.

The plea further said that issuance of ad-hoc and emergent orders was understandable owing to the largely unpredictable crisis being faced by the world but after over two months since the lockdown was imposed, there is a need for a robust national plan.

The petition added that the latest national plan uploaded on the website of the National Disaster Management Authority is of the year 2019 and the same doesn’t comprehensively deal with situations arising out of the current pandemic and there is no mention of measures like lockdown, containment zones, social distancing etc. in it.

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“There needs to be in place a national plan which would provide proper and detailed mechanism for any future lockdown measures, detailed coordination mechanism between Centre and states, social distancing norms keeping in mind the predicaments of the lower strata of society, least disruption of public transports and essential activities, large scale ramping up of quarantine facilities along with rapid manufacturing of testing and PPE kits and all this needs to be done transparently,” the plea said.

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