The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to entertain the petition filed by TMC MP Mahua Moitra seeking direction to the Centre to let the CM Relief Fund also receive donations from corporates under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). MP Moitra withdrew the plea after the Court’s refusal to entertain the same.
A three-judge bench comprising of Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul & Justice B R Gavai declined to entertain the petition challenging the validity of the circular issued by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) that excludes contributions made towards Chief Ministers Relief Funds from the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Mahua Moitra, Member of Parliament from Krishnanagar, West Bengal, was represented by Senior Advocate Aryama Sundaram and Advocate Jai Dehadrai, and the matter was taken up through video conferencing.
The petitioner in her petition contended that the MCA circular is not only violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India, but is also ultra vires the provisions of the Companies Act of 2013. According to the provisions of the Companies Act, Section 135 of the Companies Act talks about CSR and Schedule VII includes CM Relief Funds as eligible recipients for realizing the corporate social responsibility.
According to the petitioner, during this time when the country is battling the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry issued a circular stating that only donations made towards the PM CARES fund will attract CSR, and donations to state relief funds will not be eligible to fall under the purview of the CSR.
The Ministry had issued a general circular previously in 2014 which had statedthat all entries under Schedule VII must be interpreted liberally, and the present circular is contradictory to the 2014 circular since it does not even give any justification for making the distinction between the relief funds for the purpose of CSR. The unfair treatment of identical contributions to the State Relief Funds is against public interest, public policy and violative of Right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution and against the principle of federalism.
The Bench observed that there is no merit in the plea and thus there is no aggrieved party before the court, and Moitra being a Member of Parliament, can raise the issue before the Parliament.
Mahua Moitra had previously also approached the Supreme Court through a letter petition on 31st of March 2020, regarding the condition of the migrant workers who were stranded indifferent cities due to the Nationwide lockdown imposed in wake of the Covid-19 outbreak. She had prayed for the Court to take cognizance of the issue, stating that these workers live in extreme poverty and if no action is taken, there will be deaths due to starvation during the lockdown, and has also requested the Court to issue directions to the executive agencies to make arrangements for the such workers, and ask the employers to provide due wages, food and shelter to these workers, during this crisis.
-India Legal Bureau