On Friday 29 May 2020 the Prime Minister Office declined to disclose the details of the PM Cares Fund which has so far enticed a huge amount of donations. The office in response to the RTI claims that the PM Cares fund is not a ‘public authority’ as per Sec (h) of the Right to Information Act.
Harsha Kandukuri, a law student from Bangalore studying at Azim Premji University filed the RTI. The Prime Minister Office in reply to the RTI that asks for the particulars of Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situation Reserve, documents of funds trust transfers, and relevant administration orders pertained to it’s functioning and creation issued a statement. Further, no such information is provided on the official website of PMO.
Till now, a number of government departments and ministries through its circulars had asked it’s employees to donate one day’s salary to the PM Cares fund. The donation can be made anytime between May to coming March, which will cover the entire fiscal year.
In the extremely first week itself, the PM Cares find received around Rs 6,500 Crores. So far the PM Cares Fund has received around Rs 10,000 Crores as a donation. Nevertheless, the PMO in response to the RTI stated that the PM Cares fund is not a public authority and the pertinent information will be published on the PM Cares official site.
Law Student’s Response to the PMO’s Reply
Harsha Kandukuri said that releasing another pubic fund in spite of having Prime Minister National Relief Fund (PMNRF) doesn’t make sense in her eyes. Kandukuri further states that she filed RTI as she was interested in the objective and composition of Trust and wanted to read the trust deeds.
As per the reports, Harsha Kandukuri is intending to appeal further. According to Kandukuri, the name of the fund, composition of the trust, control and management, use of the emblem, domain name of the government, everything else signifies that PM Cares fund is a public authority.
Harsha asserted that if the government is refuting from calling out the fund as a public authority it affirms that the government is not controlling it. Then the question arises that who is actually controlling it? According to Harsha everything associated with the fund signifies that the fund is a public authority. The government is trying to build walls of secrecy by denying to refer it as a public authority and refuting the appeal.
She asserted that citizens should be concerned about how the fund is being utilized. People should have information about the decision-making procedure of trust. Refuting the status of public authority by a trust which is created and being handled by four cabinet ministers in their ex offices powers is violating the transparency and our democratic rights.
Earlier, the government asserted that the Controller and the Auditor General will not be auditing the fund as the PM Cares fund is established on the basis of donations of individuals and organizations.
Public Authority Under RTI
The public authority under RTI is an association set up or constituted (a) under or by the constitution (b) by any other legislation made by the parliament (c) by any other legislature made by the state law (d) by a notification issued or injunction made by the appropriate government. Also defined as body controlled, owned, and substantially funded; nongovernment organizations substantially funded directly or indirectly by funds.
PM Cares Fund
The Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the ex-Officio Chairman of the PM Cares fund. The Minister of Defense- Rajnath Singh, Home Minister- Amit Shah and Minister of Finance- Nirmala Sitharam are the ex-trustees of the PM Cares Fund. All the decisions and embargoes pertained to the PM Cares fund are taken with the approval of the governing bodies of the trust.
The Prime Minister( the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees) has the authority to nominate three trustees to the board. The trustees shall be the eminent persons in the area of research, social work, science, law, health, civil administration, philanthropy.
Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF)
The Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund was first set up in the year 1948. At present, it is used primarily to provide assistance and relief to the families of those hit by natural calamities or major accidents and riots.
The following are the members of the managing committee of Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund:
- The Prime Minister of India
- The President of Indian National Congress
- The Deputy Prime Minister
- The Finance Minister
- A Representative of Tata Trustee
- A Representative of Industry and Commerce