GUWAHATI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday observed that money collected under the PM CARES Fund for the coronavirus pandemic need not be transferred to the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF).
The apex court was responding to a petition against the PM CARES fund by an NGO called Centre for Public Interest Litigation, seeking a direction that all present and future fund collections contributions and grants under the PM CARES Fund for the COVID-19 pandemic should be transferred to National Disaster Response Fund.
In the prayer, the petitioner sought the SC’s intervention and alleged that the PM CARES fund violates the provisions of the Disaster Management Act.
The Supreme Court said that it cannot direct the government to do so and that the funds collected by the PM Cares Fund are entirely different and that these are funds of charitable trusts.
Assam cheif minister Sarbananda Sonowal said, “The approval of PM CARES by the Supreme Court is a big blow to nefarious designs by the Congress to mislead the nation. ‘Rent-a-cause’ activism must stop.”
Reacting to the judgment, Assam’s finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma mocked the petitioner’s side lawyer Prashant Bhushan and tweeted: “The PIL by Centre for Public (Dis) Interest Litigation through advocate Prashant Bhushan bites the dust as Hon Supreme Court rejects pleas to transfer all contributions made to the #PMCARES Fund to NDRF, and terming it ‘valid as a public charitable fund’.”
Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund was set up by the Centre on March 28 to deal with any kind of emergency situation like the one currently posed by the pandemic and provide relief to those affected. The Prime Minister is the ex-officio chairman of the fund and the defence, home and finance ministers are ex-officio trustees.
Lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan tweeted: “Unfortunate that the SC allows the non-transparent & unaccountable PM-Cares fund set up as a secret trust to garner money in the name of COVID relief, rather than transferring such funds to the Statutory NDRF which is accessible under RTI & audited by CAG.”
Earlier, the Congress and others have questioned the legal validity of the fund.