The Prime Minister’s Office in stated that the PM CARES fund doesn’t come under the scope of “public authority” under the RTI Act, in response to RTI application filed seeking details on the fund.
An RTI application was filed by Advocate Abhay Gupta on April 1st 2020 under the Right to Information Act, asking for details of the PM CARES fund including
Advocate Abhay Gupta had filed an RTI application seeking details on the PM Cares Fund, including the total amount deposited in the Fund account till date, total amount deposited in the Fund in the last two months, PAN details given to open the PM Cares account, Details of the amount spent from the PM Cares Fund till date, and the details of the person who deposited the highest amount till date.
However, according to the reply that he received on May 29th the PM CARES fund is not a public authority, and therefore the information asked can not be given.
“PM CARES Fund is not a Public Authority under the ambit of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005. However, relevant information in respect of PM CARES Fund may be seen on the Website – pmcares.gov.in.“, stated the response to the RTI application.
The same response was received by another RTI applicant Harsha Kandukuri, a student of LLM in Azim Premji University at Bengaluru, who had also filed an RTI application on April 1st seeking details regarding constitution of the PM CARES Fund and asking for the copies of the trust deed the Fund, and all Government Orders, Notifications and circulars related to the formation of the PM Cares fund.
If the PM Cares Fund is not considered a public authority under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, it will not come under the ambit of the RTI Act, and details regarding the fund will not be claimed by the citizens under the Act.
According to provisions of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act a “public authority” is defined
as any authority or body or institution of self- government established or constituted—
(a) by or under the Constitution;
(b) by any other law made by Parliament;
(c) by any other law made by State Legislature;
(d) by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government.
According to the RTI Act, only such information which is held by or under the control of any public authority can be accessed by the general public through RTI.
Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund) is a public charitable trust which was created on March 28th 2019, in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic with the main objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation to provide relief to the affected, considering the need for having a dedicated national fund with the primary objective of dealing such situations.
The Supreme Court of India had also heard petitions filed challenging the validity of the PM Cares Fund. While hearing one petition questioning the need to create a dedicated PM Cares Fund and several State CM Relief Funds, when the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF) and the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) were already formed in 2005 under the Disaster Management Act, the Court had noted that such petitions had a political colour to it. The Apex Court had also dismissed another PIL questioning the very basis to form a PM Cares Fund set up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for COVID-19 relief.
India Legal Bureau