Plea in SC demanding transfer of funds from PM CARES to NDRF

The plea relies completely upon the Disaster Management Act, since the same has been invoked for dealing with the epidemic

PM Cares FundImage

A public Interest litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking directions that the Centre transfers all contributions of the PM CARES Fund to the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) and that it formulates a National Plan as per the Disaster Management Act.

PM CARES in Courts

The petition has joined the series of petitions on PM CARES Fund, which are currently pending before the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court and the Delhi High Court. The ones before the Supreme Court have already been dismissed. One was a petition that questioned the procedure by which the fund was established and another by TMC MP Mahua Moitra questioned why Chief Minister relief funds were excluded from receiving contributions under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) while PM CARES was allowed the same. 

The one at the Nagpur court seeks transparency in terms of amount collected and how the same have been utilised. The petition at the Delhi High Court seeks to bring PM CARES under the ambit of the Right to Information Act (RTI Act) so that all the information such as amount collected, utilised can be readily available for the public at large. Another petition at Delhi High Court has challenged the rejection of information on PM CARES fund by the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) in response to an RTI application.

As per its website, the PM CARES Fund or the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund is a “national fund with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation, like posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to provide relief to the affected”.

The petition

The petition filed by Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) seeks that all present and future collections, contributions, and grants for the fight against COVID-19 should be credited towards the NDRF in tandem with section 46(1)(b) of the Disaster Management Act. The section deals with provisions related to setting up of a National Disaster Response Fund for meeting any threatening disaster situation and states that any grant that may be made by any person or institution for the purpose of disaster management is mandatorily required to be credited into the NDRF. The petition says, “The Central Government could have, and should have, included NDRF too (apart from SDRF) for the purpose of providing assistance in the fight against the COVID-19 virus which was decided to be treated as a notified disaster. However, the Central Government chose not to do it so for reasons best known to it.”

The petition also points out that PM CARES is not subject to audit of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and as per Centre’s response does not even come under the Right to Information Act (RTI Act). “All the contribution being made by individuals and institutions in relation to CoVID-19 crisis are being credited into the PM CARES Fund not to the NDRF, in clear violation of section 46 0f the DM Act,” says the petition.

The petition points out that COVID19 was included to be funded by State Disaster Relief Funds (SDRF) but not by the NDRF, which seems to be an unreasonable exclusion.

The petitioner thus pleads, “the Centre may be directed to utilize NDRF for the purpose of providing assistance in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic in compliance with Section 46 of the DM Act, all the contributions/grants from individuals and institutions shall be credited to the NDRF in terms of Section 46(1)(b) rather than to PM CARES Fund and all the fund collected in the PM CARES Fund till date may be directed to transferred to the NDRF.”

National Plan

The plea says that “in the face of an unprecedented crisis that hit the country, passing of ad hoc and emergent orders was understandable. But after over two months since the lockdown was imposed, there is a need for a robust National Plan.”

About the National Plan, the plea further states, “The National Plan should provide inter alia proper and detailed mechanism for any future lockdown measures, detailed coordination mechanism between Centre and States, social distancing norms keeping in mind the predicaments of the lower strata of the society, least disruption of public transports and essential activities, large scale ramping up of quarantine facilities along with rapid manufacturing of testing and PPE kits and all this needs to be done transparently…. There cannot be continuous arbitrariness in the decision-making process in dealing with the current COVID-19 pandemic and resultantly putting a disproportionate burden on the poor and other marginal sections of the society as the same is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of lndia. Thus, a National plan is required to be prepared…”

The petition states that as per the Act, the National Plan is to be made in consultation with state governments as well as after seeking the opinion of experts and it is to be prepared by the National Executive committee. The petition further says that the Central government has ignored the opinion of experts even from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) while making critical decisions while relying upon news reports and a letter dated May 25, sent by lndian experts in the field of epidemiology and public health to the Prime Minister.

Stressing on the importance of a National Plan, the petitioner states, “while the issuance of ad hoc and emergent orders are understandable owing to the largely unpredictable crisis being faced by the entire world, however, at least now, i.e. after passing of more than two months since the issuance of the first national lockdown, there needs to be in place a broader and well thought out National Plan outlining inter alia a detailed coordination mechanism between Centre and states.”

Guidelines for minimum standards of relief

While pointing out that India has reached the fourth position in the world, in number of COVID19 cases, the petitions stresses upon the need for “Guidelines for minimum standards of relief” under section 12 of the Act, which includes minimum requirement of food in relief camps, special provisions for windows and orphans, ex gratia assistance on account of loss of life  and so on.

The petition states that there has been a lack of short-term measures and guidelines for providing immediate relief to the worst affected sections of people which need to be accompanied with sufficient funds and monetary relief coming from the Centre. It further suggests, “while the economy is being opened in a staggered manner and means of livelihood of the marginal farmers, street vendors, migrant labourers may eventually be restored to some extent, it is going to take a long time and till then, it is submitted, there should be immediate cash outlay for them”.

The petition states that these guidelines could also cater to the grievances of healthcare workers who are complaining of shortage of PPEs putting them at a high risk.

It remains to see whether this petition will meet the same fate as the earlier two petitions dismissed by the Supreme Court; one for being ‘misconceived’ and the other was directed to be debated in the Parliament.

The complete petition may be read here.


Is PM CARES a public authority or not?
Delhi HC: SG to file reply to petition challenging PMO response denying PM CARES info under RTI
Plea in Delhi HC seeking directions to get PM CARES under RTI Act
Bombay HC’s Nagpur bench refuses to dismiss petition seeking CAG audit of PM CARES, issues notice
PM CARES not Public Authority says PMO, in response to RTI query



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