The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on Tuesday told the Delhi High Court that the PM CARES Fund is administered on the pattern of Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) as both are chaired by the Prime Minister.
“As the national emblem and domain name ‘gov.in’ are being used for the PMNRF, it is also being used for PM CARES Fund,” an affidavit filed by an under secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), who is discharging his functions in the PM Cares Trust on honorary basis, said.
The PMO stated that PM CARES Fund is not a government fund as donations to it do not go to the Consolidated Fund of India. The affidavit was filed in response to a petition by Samyak Gangwal, a lawyer, seeking to declare the PM CARES Fund a ‘State’ under the Constitution. Mr. Gangwal has also filed a separate petition to declare PM CARES as a ‘public authority’ under the RTI Act.
Both the petitions are being heard together.
“The PM CARES Fund has been set up as a Public Charitable Trust,” the PMO said as it stressed that no third-party information can be parted with irrespective of its status under the Constitution and the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
“I reiterate and submit that the PM CARES Fund has been set up as a Public Charitable Trust. This trust is not created by or under the Constitution of India or by any law made by Parliament or by any State legislature,” the affidavit stated
“This trust is neither intended to be or is in fact owned, controlled or substantially financed by any government nor any instrumentality of the government. There is no control of either the Central government or any state government/s, either direct or indirect, in functioning of the trust in any manner whatsoever,” it added.
The PMO further stated that the PM CARES accepts only voluntary donations by individuals and institutions. “Contributions flowing out of budgetary sources of government or from the balance sheets of the public sector undertakings are not accepted,” it highlighted.
The affidavit further said that the cause for which PM CARES Fund was created and exists is purely charitable and neither the funds of this trust are used for the government projects nor is the trust governed by any of the government policies, so it cannot be labelled as “public authority”.
“The benefit of the objects of the trust have been made available to the general public irrespective of caste, creed, sex, region, language and religion. Moreover, trust deed of the PM CARES Fund along with grants sanctioned from the fund are available in public domain on the website pmcares.gov.in. Audit reports of the PM CARES Fund are already available on the website…,” it said.
It said that all donations received by the PM CARES Fund are received via online payments, cheques or demand drafts and the amount received is audited with the audited report and the expenditure of the trust fund displayed on the website.
Mr. Gangwal, in his petition, stated that the PM CARES Fund was formed by the Prime Minister on March 27, 2020, to extend assistance to the citizens of India in the wake of the public health emergency - the COVID-19 pandemic.