On Friday, the office of Prime Minister Narendra Modi refused to reveal the details about the newly formed PM CARES Fund. The fund was created to fight the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Responding to a Right to Information applications, the Prime Minister’s Office said that the fund is not a public authority and hence it will not come under the Right to Information Act. The RTI was filed by a law student of Bengaluru in April who sought the details about the constitution of the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund. In addition to that, the application also sought copies of the trust deed of the fund and the subsequent government orders that lead to the creation of the fund.
According to Live Law, the Prime Minister’s office responded by saying,
“The 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 the fund may be seen on the website pmcares.gov.in.”
As per the RTI Act of 2005, a public authority is an organization established (a) under or by the constitution (b) by any other law made by the parliament or (c) by a notification or order issued by the government. Going by this definition, the act covers all the government and non-government organizations and their finances.
Applicant appeals against PMO response
In April, the government had revealed that the fund will not be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and cited the reason to be because the funds were of individuals and organizations. The fund was created on the 28th of March in order to seek donations from the public to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund has Prime Minister Narendra Modi as its chairperson and his cabinet members serve as the trustees. Ever since the creation of the fund, the government has been under criticism especially for creating a separate fund despite the existence of the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund.
The applicant of the RTI spoke to Live Law and has told that he would be filing an appeal against the response of the Prime Minister’s office for his application.