Amid the questions and controversies surrounding the authenticity of PM CARES fund, the PMO on May 29, clarified that the fund is not a public authority under the ambit of the RTI Act, 2005. The answer from the high office came in response to a Right To Information (RTI) plea filed by Sri Harsha Kandukuri asking the PMO to provide the Funds trust deed and all government orders, notifications and circulars pertaining to its creation and operation.
The Prime Ministers Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund was set up to receive donations and provide relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, or other similar emergencies.
A law student at the Azim Premji University in Bengaluru, Kandukuri says that “when we already have the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF), having another fund did not make sense to me. I was curious about the composition and objectives of the Trust. I wanted to read the trust deed.
He received a response from an Information officer from PMO that PM CARES Fund is not a Public Authority under the ambit of Secon 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.”
Though it is not the first plea filed questioning the said trust. A similar plea was filed by an activist Vikrant Togad, which had also been refused in April, wherein the PMO cited a Supreme Court observation that indiscriminate and impractical demands under the RTI Act for disclosure of all and sundry information would be counterproductive.
Kandukuri, still not satisfied with the answer, plans to appeal further. “The name, composition of the trust, control, usage of the emblem, government domain name — everything signifies that it is a public authority,” he said, reminding that the PM is the ex-officio chairman of the Trust, while three cabinet ministers are ex-officio trustees. The composition of the trust is enough to show that Government exercises substantive control over the trust, making it a public authority, he said further.
The vagueness is still there in the air regarding whether the PMNRF (Prime Ministers National Relief Fund) is subject to the RTI Act. While the Central Information Commission directed it to disclose information in 2008, a division bench of the Delhi High Court gave a split opinion on the question of whether PMNRF is a public authority under the Act or not.