Updated: October 7, 2021 8:40:56 am
The PM-CARES Fund must follow the principle of transparency as required by the Constitution and be declared a State fund, the Delhi High Court was told Wednesday.
The highest government authorities had projected that the charitable trust had been set up by the Centre, said Senior Advocate Shyam Divan, representing the petitioner Samyak Gangwal. He was opposing the Centre’s stand that PM-CARES was not a government fund and that its amount does not go into the Consolidated Fund of India.
“You cannot say ‘look, let’s decide that the Constitution does not apply to us, that we are not State and that we fall somewhere else’,” he told the division bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh.
The court Wednesday began hearing arguments on the petition that wants the PM CARES Fund to be declared as ‘The State’ under Article 12 of the Constitution. Gangwal has contended that citizens of the country are aggrieved that a fund set up by the Prime Minister and with trustees like the PM and ministers of Home, Defence and Finance has been declared a fund over which there is no government control.
Divan argued: “There is deep and pervasive state control. It’s working in parallel with government machinery. The manner in which it’s being operated, the financial support and everything about… What’s it in the PM CARES which is private? Can anyone say that it is not State. Apart from that self-certification, we are not able to find any factor that it’s not the State”.
It was also argued that the authorities projected PM CARES as the State and that the use of the State emblem and a .gov.in portal itself conveys official sanction “Emblem conveys official sanction, public confidence, a message that it belongs to your government and will be subject to everything in terms of the discipline of constitution and the laws of India and it is not going to be private affair which nobody can look into where all donations are opaque, where we are not going to disclose to anybody,” argued Divan.
Divan also submitted that the Constitution “requires sunlight, transparency” and the structure of PM CARES itself is “so faulty and flawed”. “We are not saying that its activities are bad but we are only submitting that this must come under the discipline of the Constitution. The correct approach is that this is nothing but State,” he contended.
The court was told that the PMO through the PIB had issued a press note appealing for donations to the PM CARES fund and created a perception that it is nothing but the Government of India.
The Vice President as well as a Cabinet Minister and Cabinet Secretary made similar appeals to members of Rajya Sabha and government employees, respectively, and identified it as a Government of India charitable fund, the court was told.
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