New Delhi: The Supreme Court today reserved its verdict on a plea that all funds collected by the PM Cares Fund, pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic relief, should be transferred to the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), the agency primarily responsible for doing work at the grassroots level.
When Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, arguing for the Centre, told the bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan that PM Cares Fund is a “voluntary fund”, while budgetary allocations took care of the functioning of the NDRF and SDRF, Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave, representing the petitioner, an NGO, said that the creation of the PM Cares Fund could have contravened provisions of the Disaster Management Act.
He brought out the case of the audit. While the NDRF is audited by the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG), PM Cares Fund would be audited by private auditors.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy & M. R. Shah heard a petition filed by Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) seeking setting up of a National Plan under the Disaster Management Act (DM Act).
In the PIL, the petitioner organization had prayed that all present and future collections, contributions, and grants for the fight against COVID-19 should be credited towards the National Disaster Relief Fund in accordance with Section 46(1) (b)of the DM Act.
CPIL had further sought directions to the Union of lndia to prepare, notify and implement a National Plan under Section 11 read with Section 10 of the DM Act to deal with the current pandemic and to lay down minimum standards of relief, under Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, to be provided to persons affected by the COVID-19 virus, as well as by the resultant national lockdown.
The petitioner had further pointed out that the latest National Plan uploaded on the website of National Disaster Management Authority is of the year 2019 and the same does not comprehensively deal with situations arising out of the current pandemic and has no mention of measures like lockdown, containment zones, social distancing in it.
Hence, the petitioner had submitted that “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.”
On the non mandatory CAG Audit of the PM CARES Fund the CPIL had submitted that Centre has been refraining from divulging information about the specific utilization of crores of rupees that have been contributed/ donated to the PM-CARES Fund till date.
The petitioner had therefore urged the Court to direct the Centre 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, and the entire fund collected in the PM CARES Fund till date may be directed to be transferred to the NDRF.
Read the order here;11706-2020-35-21-23114-Order-27-Jul-2020
-India Legal Bureau