By FnF Correspondent | PUBLISHED: 23, Sep 2021, 19:23 pm IST | UPDATED: 23, Sep 2021, 19:35 pm IST
New Delhi: The Centre on Thursday informed the Delhi High Court that PRIME MINISTER’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situation Fund (PM-CARES Fund) is not a Government of India fund and the amount collected by it does not go to the Consolidated Fund of India.
The information was shared through an affidavit filed by Pradeep Kumar Srivastava, an Under Secretary at the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). Srivastava also functions in the PM CARES trust on an honorary basis.
He also informed the court that trust functions with transparency and its funds are audited by an auditor – a chartered accountant drawn from the panel prepared by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG).
A Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Amit Bansal was hearing the plea filed by Samay Gangwal who claimed that PM CARES Fund is a 'State' as it was formed by Prime Minister last year, in order to provide assistance to those affected by the unprecedented Coronavirus outbreak.
Stop Using Govt Credentials: Petitioner Samay Gangwal
Gangwal's council also asserted that if PM CARES Fund is not a 'State', then the usage of domain name 'gov', state emblem, PM's photograph etc has to be stopped.
Gangwal council also pointed out that trustees of the fund are the Prime Minister, Defence Minister, Home Minister and the Finance Minister and immediately after the formation of the fund, the Centre through its high government functionaries represented that the fund was set up and operated by the Government of India.
To ensure transparency and accountability, the plea has sought a direction for periodic auditing of PM CARES website and disclosure of the details of donations received by it.
PM CARES Fund Functions With Transparency: PMO
To ensure transparency, the audited report is put on the official website of the trust along with the details of utilisation of funds received by the trust, Srivastava said in the affidavit filed in court.
"I state that when the petitioner is claiming to be a public-spirited person and seeking to pray for various reliefs only for transparency, it does not matter whether PM Cares is a ‘State’ within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution of India," the affidavit added, PTI reported.
Further, the affidavit also claimed that "Irrespective of whether the trust is a ‘State’ or other authority within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution or whether it is a ‘public authority’ within the meaning of provisions of the Right to Information Act (RTI), it is not permissible to disclose third party information."
It said that all donations received by the trust are received via online payments, cheques or Demand Drafts and the amount received is audited with the audited report and the expenditure of trust fund displayed on the website.
In terms of his role in the trust, Srivastava said that he is discharging his functions in the PM Cares Trust on honorary basis which is a charitable trust not created by or under the Constitution or by any law made by the Parliament or by any State Legislature.
Meanwhile, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who represented PMO, had opposed the petition, stating that it was not maintainable and that he would file a response explaining why it should not be entertained.
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