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Politics India

Bombay HC’s Nagpur bench refuses to dismiss petition seeking CAG audit of PM CARES, issues notice

The petitioner has sought details on the amount collected by the fund, being a citizen of India and a donor to the fund

Sabrangindia 03 Jun 2020

Bombay HCImage Courtesy:livelaw.in

The Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court, has issued notices to Union of India through the principal secretaries of Finance, Home and Defence ministries in a plea seeking disclosure of funds collected by PM CARES fund and an audit of the same by CAG. The petition filed by Advocate Arvind Waghmare states that he has filed the petition in his capacity as a citizen of India and a donor to the fund.

The Additional Solicitor General of India, Anil Singh, argued that the PIL may be dismissed by the court since the Supreme Court had already dismissed two such petitions relating to Prime Minister’s Citizens Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES). The Bench comprising Justices Sunil Shukre and Anil Killor stated that the issues realised in this PIL were different from those that were dismissed by the apex court and hence notices were being issued. The court has given the respondents two weeks’ time to file a response.

The petitioner contended in his petition that even though the fund has managed to gather Rs. 6,500 crores within the first week itself, the subsequent data on the collected funds has not been revealed. PM CARES is a public charitable trust created by the central government for dealing with COVID19.

The petition states that the fund is chaired by the Prime Minister and other members of the trust are members of the central cabinet. The petition alleges that three more trustees were to be appointed to the trust but no such appointment has been made as of yet.

The petition also seeks directions from the court that the central government appoints members of opposition parties as trust members in order to maintain have proper checks and balances and transparency in the functioning of the trust. When the fund was announced, it was stated that it will be audited by an independent auditor hence, the petition seeks an audit by the CAG instead.

The petition states that this needs to be done in order to “fortify and strengthen general public’s faith and confidence”. The petition stresses on the need to issue directions to the government to declare the amount of funds collected by far and declare how the funds have been utilised.

When PM CARES fund was introduced, critics questioned the need for the same when PM National Relief Fund (PMNRF) already existed. The transparency of the fund was mainly questioned and critics asked why both funds couldn’t be merged. Even corporates were allowed to fulfil their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) obligations by donating to PM CARES thus diminishing the chances of NGOs to get funds from corporates for the real grassroots level work done by them. Further the fund was also criticised for not giving details on maintenance of accounts, their audit or on the answerability of the decisions taken by these four trustees, thus raising doubts about its transparency and accountability.

Recently, the Prime Minister’s Office refused to divulge information like trust deed of PM CARES in an RTI application filed by a law student stating that PM CARES is not a public authority thus implying that the fund does not come under the ambit of the Right to Information Act.

Related:

PM CARES not Public Authority says PMO, in response to RTI query
Plea in Bombay HC seeks CAG audit of PM CARES fund 

Bombay HC’s Nagpur bench refuses to dismiss petition seeking CAG audit of PM CARES, issues notice

The petitioner has sought details on the amount collected by the fund, being a citizen of India and a donor to the fund

Bombay HCImage Courtesy:livelaw.in

The Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court, has issued notices to Union of India through the principal secretaries of Finance, Home and Defence ministries in a plea seeking disclosure of funds collected by PM CARES fund and an audit of the same by CAG. The petition filed by Advocate Arvind Waghmare states that he has filed the petition in his capacity as a citizen of India and a donor to the fund.

The Additional Solicitor General of India, Anil Singh, argued that the PIL may be dismissed by the court since the Supreme Court had already dismissed two such petitions relating to Prime Minister’s Citizens Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES). The Bench comprising Justices Sunil Shukre and Anil Killor stated that the issues realised in this PIL were different from those that were dismissed by the apex court and hence notices were being issued. The court has given the respondents two weeks’ time to file a response.

The petitioner contended in his petition that even though the fund has managed to gather Rs. 6,500 crores within the first week itself, the subsequent data on the collected funds has not been revealed. PM CARES is a public charitable trust created by the central government for dealing with COVID19.

The petition states that the fund is chaired by the Prime Minister and other members of the trust are members of the central cabinet. The petition alleges that three more trustees were to be appointed to the trust but no such appointment has been made as of yet.

The petition also seeks directions from the court that the central government appoints members of opposition parties as trust members in order to maintain have proper checks and balances and transparency in the functioning of the trust. When the fund was announced, it was stated that it will be audited by an independent auditor hence, the petition seeks an audit by the CAG instead.

The petition states that this needs to be done in order to “fortify and strengthen general public’s faith and confidence”. The petition stresses on the need to issue directions to the government to declare the amount of funds collected by far and declare how the funds have been utilised.

When PM CARES fund was introduced, critics questioned the need for the same when PM National Relief Fund (PMNRF) already existed. The transparency of the fund was mainly questioned and critics asked why both funds couldn’t be merged. Even corporates were allowed to fulfil their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) obligations by donating to PM CARES thus diminishing the chances of NGOs to get funds from corporates for the real grassroots level work done by them. Further the fund was also criticised for not giving details on maintenance of accounts, their audit or on the answerability of the decisions taken by these four trustees, thus raising doubts about its transparency and accountability.

Recently, the Prime Minister’s Office refused to divulge information like trust deed of PM CARES in an RTI application filed by a law student stating that PM CARES is not a public authority thus implying that the fund does not come under the ambit of the Right to Information Act.

Related:

PM CARES not Public Authority says PMO, in response to RTI query
Plea in Bombay HC seeks CAG audit of PM CARES fund 

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