There has been an outburst of opinions regarding the constitutional validity of the PM CARES Fund since its establishment. On April 1st, 2020, one of the many concerned citizens, Harsha Landukuri filed an RTI application seeking information about the Constitution of the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund).
However, on May 29, 2020, the Public Information Officer of PMO dismissed the application and stated:
“PM CARES Fund does not come within the explanation of section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005. Yet, pertinent information about the fund is provided on its official website i.e. pmcares.gov.in”
Surprisingly, the copies of the trust deed and the orders and notifications passed by government for the fund, are not visible on the site.
Is the Government building a wall of secrecy?
The Application by Harsha, the LLM student from Bangalore, pointed out the loopholes of the Fund. She expressed her belief that the PM CARES Fund is just a replication of the Prime Ministers’ Relief Fund. Moreover, it is ambiguous as to who manages and authorizes the Fund. The applicant states:
“Since the Comptroller and Auditor General of India does not audit the fund, then what authorities manage it? The Government has widened its secrecy by simply concluding that the fund is not a public authority as under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005.”
This is just one of the many applications denied by the Government about the Fund. Due to a major lack of transparency, analysts from different states are constantly suggesting appropriate ways to utilize this money. Yet, there is no refined data about the working of the Fund.
Previously raised concerns about the Fund
Individuals from all over the nation are graciously contributing to the PM CARES Fund. But there is no official statistics submitted regarding its execution. Earlier in 2016, similar problems were raised against the PMNRF namely in the case of Aseem Takyar v. Prime Minister National Relief Fund (2016). There were appeals contending the assessment of the Right to Information Act, 2005. Moreover, according to Section 19 of the Indian Trusts Act, 1882, the citizens of India are the beneficiaries of the funds of PMNRF. Hence they are open to access information regarding its operation.
On April 27, 2020, a similar applicant, Vikrant Togad raised his opinions about the PM CARES Fund. But, the PMO denied the disclosure of the information of the fund by stating:
“It is not open to the applicant under the RTI Act, 2005 to raise bundle of requests in one single application unless these are paid and dealt with separately.”
The government developed the PM-CARES Fund with effect from 28th March 2020. This public charitable trust ensures that donations can range from the highest possible value as well as of minimum denominations of Rs.10 to encourage people from all walks of life to strengthen the core and essence of this measure. Since then almost around Rs.9,677.9 crore ($1.27 billion) has been collected by the PM-Cares Fund officially and a ballpark figure of Rs. 2,098.2 crore is promised to be funded.
In an interview, Harsha further clarified that, “I have a provision to file for an appeal and I am going forward with it now. I already have another appeal since the authorities did not respond to my queries within 30 days”.