GANDHINAGER, WNS: The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a petition seeking directions to transfer money collected under the PM CARES Fund to NDRF.
The Supreme Court said: “PM CARES Fund is valid as a public charitable fund.
There is no need to transfer all contributions to NDRF.”
The apex court, however, clarified that any individual or organisation can contribute to the National Disaster Relief Fund.
A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan and comprising justices RS Reddy and MR Shah said that voluntary contribution
can always be made to the NDRF as there is no statutory bar under the Disaster Management Act.
The verdict came in a PIL, filed by NGO—Centre for Public Interest Litigation—seeking a direction
that all the money collected under the newly created fund for the COVID-19 pandemic should be transferred to the NDRF.
PM CARES established on March 28
The Centre had on March 28 set up the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund
with the primary objective to deal with any kind of emergency situation like the one currently
posed by the COVID-19 outbreak and provide relief to those affected.
The prime minister is the ex-officio chairman of the fund and the ministers of defence,
home and finance are its ex-officio trustees.
PM CARES violates Disaster Management Act
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for the NGO,
during the hearing of the case contended that they do not doubt the bonafide of anyone. Dave had said the creation of the PM CARES Fund is allegedly in contravention of provisions of the Disaster Management Act.
The senior advocate had claimed that an audit of the NDRF was being conducted by the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG). But, he added, the government has said the audit of the PM CARES Fund will be done by private auditors.
Controversy over PM CARES therefore
Following the creation of the fund, Opposition members had raised many queries as to why a separate fund was needed and when it was registered. They had also questioned under which Act it was registered and why it did not contain any members of civil society or opposition as part of the trust.
In fact, chief ministers of various states had questioned about the preference for PM CARES over the individual relief funds of each state.
CAG officials had stated that they were not allowed to audit the fund, since it was “based on donations of individuals and organisations”.
The government had stated that “independent auditors who will be appointed by the trustees” would audit the fund.