A Public Interest Litigation is filed in the Supreme Court asking the Centre; to transfer all the donations from the PM CARES Fund to the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF). Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) filed the plea. Advocate Prashant Bhushan appeared for the petitioners.
Contrary To The Provisions Of The Disaster Management Act, 2005
Section 46(1)(b) of the Act provides for the credit of any grants a person, institution may make for the purpose of disaster management to the National Disaster Response Fund. Therefore, the plea asks for credit of all the contributions, grants for COVID-19 relief to the NDRF. As this was an unprecedented crisis, the government passing emergent orders was understandable. The petitioners demand for preparation and implementation of a National Plan given under Sections 10 and 11 of the Act. It also asked for provision of a minimum standard for relief; for COVID-19 patients as per Section 12 of the Act.
The Centre should formulate a National Plan after consultation with the states. The plan must help in coordination between the Centre and states.
Demand For A National Plan
The petition states that the latest National Plan, uploaded on the National Disaster Management Authority website; is of 2019 and it does not deal with current situations. It does not include measures such as lockdown, containment zones, social distancing etc.
Many prominent Indian epidemiologists and public health experts have criticised the Central government’s handling of this dire situation. Also, they have given recommendations on how to deal with this pandemic. The government should consult an expert body for drafting a National Plan.
“The National Plan should provide proper and detailed mechanism for any future lockdown measures; detailed coordination mechanism between Centre and States; social distancing norms considering the difficulties of the lower strata of the society; least disruption of public transports and essential activities, large scale improvement in quarantine facilities; along with rapid manufacturing of testing and PPE kits; and all this done in a transparent manner.”
The government should also consider the standard of relief; provided in shelter homes and related aspects of relief work in the National Plan.
Questions Regarding The PM CARES Fund
Further, in these testing times, the authorities are not utilizing National Disaster Response Fund; and a separate fund the PM CARES fund is set up, which is violative of Section 72 the Act. The petitioner also questions the shadiness about the PM CARES Fund pointing out that it is not subject to a mandatory Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) audit; and is outside the scope of the Right to Information Act.
Thus, the petition states that, it is important that the contributions; for the fight against COVID-19 are made towards the National Disaster Response Fund. Hence, the government should transfer the funds collected under the PM CARES Fund to the NDRF.
“While the acute and unforeseen challenge in the face of the current COVID-19 pandemic is understandable; the government should follow the statutory provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 (the parent statute in fighting the pandemic) in both letter and spirit.”- The Petition states. The plea also points that India has assumed fourth position; in terms of the most reported cases of coronavirus in the world.