PM-CARES not a government fund, Centre tells Delhi HC
The Centre informed the Delhi High Court that the Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situation (PM-CARES) Fund is not a government fund. It said that the PM-CARES fund is a charitable trust under law. Thus, its amount does not go in the Consolidated Fund of India. Notably, the Centre was responding to a plea seeking to know the fund's legal status.
In its response, the Centre said, "There is no control of either the central government or any state governments, either direct or indirect, in the functioning of the Trust in any manner whatsoever." The Centre further said that since it is a "public trust," it is not subjected to any audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
Countering questions raised on the fund's transparency, the Centre said the funds of the trust are being audited by an auditor, appointed by the CAG. Talking about donations to PM-CARES Fund, the Centre said the trust comprises voluntary donations made by individuals and institutions. It also added that all donations received by the trust are through online payments, cheques, and/or demand drafts.
On questions of transparency surrounding PM-CARES, the Centre further said, "To ensure transparency, the audited report is put on the official website of the trust along with the details of utilization of funds received by the trust."
To note, the petitioner has sought that PM-CARES should be declared as "The State" under Article 12 of the Constitution. However, the Centre claimed the Trust could neither be brought under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act nor can it be listed as a "State" since it isn't a "public authority" under the ambit of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act.
The PM-CARES fund was created by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 27, 2020, to extend assistance to people in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Its trustees include the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, the Defence Minister, and the Finance Minister. However, since its creation, it has received flak from activists, lawyers, and politicians who questioned the transparency in donations.