The Union Government on Monday told the Supreme Court that money in a public charitable fund, like the PM Cares Fund, could not be transferred to a statutory fund like the National Disaster Response Fund, which gets budgetary allocations from the Centre.
The Centre’s response came after senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for NGO ‘Centre for Public Interest Litigation’, told a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, RS Reddy and MR Shah that the government was rightly scrutinising contributions to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, and contributions to the PM Cares Fund should similarly be scanned.
He said while NDRF was subject to auditing by the CAG, the PM Cares Fund was scrutinised by independent auditors. “Why can’t it be made subject to public scrutiny?” he asked.
Dave said when there existed a PM National Relief Fund and NDRF, the PM Cares Fund could not have been set up. His plea for transfer of money in the PM Cares Fund, estimated to be Rs 11,000 crore, to the NDRF was supported by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who said while contributions to the new fund by corporate houses were counted as CSR activity, the same status was not available for funds set up by CMs.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta replied that CSR exemption for donations to NDRF was also available. “Contributions to NDRF is through budgetary allocations and also voluntary donations. But PM Cares is a pubic charitable trust. Can anyone make an argument that funds from a public charitable trust be taken and put in a statutory fund?” he said , adding that the amount would not be transferred to NDRF.