PM-CARES contribution need not be credited to NDRF: Supreme Court

PM-CARES is now beyond the purview of the CAG. GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCK  

The Supreme Court on Tuesday held that funds received into the PM-CARES Fund need not be credited to the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) for the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

A three-judge Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan said “PM-CARES is entirely different from NDRF”.

Also read | PM-CARES Fund collected over ₹3,000 crore in 2019-20

On the other hand, the court held that there is “no statutory prohibition on individuals to make voluntary contributions to NDRF” under Section 46(1)(b) of the Disaster Management Act of 2005.

The judgment, read out by Justice Bhushan, found no reason to modify the National Disaster Management Plan. “The plan is sufficient,” Justice Bhushan read out. There was no need for a fresh plan in the light of COVID-19 experience.

Minimum standards of relief

The court did not find it necessary to intervene with the “minimum standards of relief” and the necessary guidelines issued by the government under Section 12 of the 2005 Act.

The provision holds that the National Authority shall recommend guidelines for the minimum standards of relief to be provided to persons affected by disaster, which shall include the minimum requirements to be provided in the relief camps in relation to shelter, food, drinking water, medical cover and sanitation; special provisions to be made for widows and orphans; ex gratia assistance on account of loss of life as also assistance on account of damage to houses and for restoration of means of livelihood, among other things.

Also read | PMO denies RTI plea seeking info on PM-CARES

The judgment was based on a public interest litigation petition filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), represented by senior advocate Dushyant Dave and advocate Prashant Bhushan.

The government was of the stand that PM-CARES was a “public charitable trust” to which “anyone can contribute”. It is a “misconception” that contributions received by a public trust such as PM-CARES could be transferred to a statutory fund such as the NDRF, the government had maintained in the Supreme Court.

‘Not subject to audit by CAG’

Mr. Dave had argued that PM-CARES was not subject to audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General. It was not under “public scrutiny” and contributions to it were “100% tax free”.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal had argued that corporate contributors were lured to donate to PM-CARES because they could avail of corporate social responsibility benefits, which was not possible in the case of donations to States’ funds.

The court had also heard arguments on the need for a specific national plan to battle natural disasters and pandemics. It has reserved orders on this aspect too.

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs had already, in an affidavit, defended the existence of PM-CARES fund to receive “voluntary donations” as an entity separate and distinct from the NDRF.

It had explained that funds such as the NDRF, formed under Section 46 of the Disaster Management Act of 2005, were provided for by Central and State Budgets.

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Printable version | May 8, 2021 7:41:29 PM |

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