According to the PTI report, the affidavit was filed by Pradeep Kumar Srivastava, the Under Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
The PTI reported that the trust functions on the principles of transparency, public good and larger public interest like any other charitable trust and, therefore, cannot have any objection in uploading all its resolutions on its website to ensure transparency.
“The trust’s fund is not a fund of Government of India and the amount does not go in the Consolidated Fund of India”, it reiterated.
What is the PM CARES Fund?
The Delhi High Court was informed by the Centre that the PM Cares Fund was not a public fund and that the money does not go to the Consolidated Fund of India.
The affidavit stated that the trust functions with transparency and said that all the donations received by the trust, via online payments, cheques or Demand Drafts, is audited and a report of the audit and the expenditure of the trust fund displayed on the website.
This was filed in response to a petition seeking clarity and direction when it comes to the PM Cares fund and to declare it a ‘State’ under the constituency to ensure transparency in its functioning. Irrespective of whether the trust is a ‘State’ or other authority under the Article 12 of the Constitution or whether it is a ‘public authority’.
Within the meaning of provisions of the Right to Information Act (RTI), it is not permissible to disclose third party information, the PTI stated. To ensure transparency, the audit report is put on the website along with the details of the utilisation of the funds of the trust, the affidavit stated.
If this is the case, where does all the money go?
Where does the money go?
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the PM care funds have been utilized for the setting up of Oxygen plants in light of the oxygen crisis that our hospitals underwent in mid to late June, Children schemes for orphaned kids during the pandemic, ventilators and make shift hospitals for states where there has been a shortage for.
The PM Cares fund has also been aiding in the wake of vaccinating almost 10 crore people in the country.
With the audit report being present on the website, it does seem that the PM Cares fund is utilized for the good of the people during this pandemic but multiple backlashes in regards to how it is being utilized has come up.
Samyak Gangwal had filed a petition to the High Court saying that the PM Cares fund is a ‘State’ as it was by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 27, 2020 to extend assistance to Indians in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.
Gangwal’s counsel stated that if the PM Cares fund is not a ‘State’ it should not go under the ‘gov’ domain, should not use the Prime Minister’s photographs or the national emblem and other national symbols.
This petition was filed to declare the PM Cares fund as a ‘public authority’ under the Right to Information Act (RTI), which was heard as the first plea.
Also sharpening her attack over the Prime Minister, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee alleged that the money collected for the PM Cares fund was being utilized in the West Bengal elections by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). On the allegations made by the West Bengal Chief Minister, Bengal BJP spokesperson, Samik Banerjee, stated that it was baseless and made in desperation.
Concerns Over Transparency
Retired Supreme Court Judge, Justice Madan B. Lokur, raised concerns over the transparency of the funds collected under the PM Cares fund as well, stating that the CSR money being collected has been diverted to the PM Cares fund but there is not clarity over how that money is being spent.
He also added that the audit report for the 2020-2021 period is yet to be prepared and until then the question of where is the money going should be raised.
He further spoke about the responsibility of the government to disclose information as mentioned in Section 4 of the RTI Act.
Justice Lokur did also mention and commend Rajasthan for starting ‘Jan Soocha’ portal where information is freely available for to all and ushered that this example would usher in a change by which information is freely provided by the government and people do not need to “go around asking for information.
Till we get the 2020-2021 audit report, it is quite difficult to understand exactly how.
Much of the PM Cares fund is utilized in the areas it claims is being used but let’s hope that this does not turn into a major political and financial issue in the future.
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