PMO’s Resources to be Diverted on Releasing Details of the PM CARES Fund
Ever since the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES) Fund was announced on March 28, 2020, to battle the COVID-19 crisis, donations from all over the country started pouring in and accumulated thousands of crores.
The Fund’s chairman is Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, while the trustees are Amit Shah (Home Minister), Nirmala Sitharaman (Finance Minister) and Rajnath Singh (Defence Minister).
Officials have defined the Fund as a “public charitable trust” and said that it was registered on 27 March 2020.
On May 26, 2020, when Commodore Lokesh Batra (retired) approached the PMO with questions on the PM CARES Fund via the RTI query form, the respondent cited Section 7(9) of the RTI Act has been cited to deny these requests, even though several high courts and the Central Information Commission have stated that the section cannot be used this way and have said, “this section does not allow denial of information but denial of providing the same in the form in which it has been sought”.
However, in June 2020, the PMO said that the Fund isn’t a “public authority” under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005, and consequently, it won’t be capable of exposing records sought via means of an application for the disclosure of the details of the Fund.
Any attempts to gather information was thwarted by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and in its latest attempt to block information when pleas were made by activists for details of the fund through Right to Information (RTI) queries, the PMO has said that such information would “disproportionately divert the resources of the office.”
Additionally, there have been concerns regarding the legal validity of the Fund by the Congress and other parties and the fact isn’t regulated under the audit of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.