The Centre has defended the creation of the PM CARES Fund, which accepts donations for Covid relief operations, and opposed the demand for transferring the amount collected to the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF).
In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the government said, “There does exist a National Disaster Response Fund as stipulated under Section 46 of Disaster Management (DM) Act, 2005 which so far consisted of the fund in the form of budgetary provisions made by the Central government in NDRF and state governments and Central government in State Disaster Response Funds without any private contribution.”
“It is submitted that there are several funds which are either established earlier or now for carrying out various relief works. PM CARES is one such fund with voluntary donations,” the affidavit pointed out and said “mere existence of a statutory fund would not prohibit creation of a different fund like PM CARES Fund which provides for voluntary donations”.
On the prayer to credit funds received in PM CARES to NDRF, the government said it “is neither maintainable on merits nor is otherwise maintainable under Article 32 as all funds other than the funds stipulated under Section 46 of DM Act, 2005 are separate, different and distinct, created separately under separate provisions”.
The affidavit was filed in response to a PIL by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation.
The plea also sought the drawing up of a National Disaster Management plan under the Disaster Management Act.
To this, the Centre pointed out that such a plan “is already in place at the national level” and it specifically deals with Biological and Public Health Emergencies. Besides, states also have their Disaster Management plans in place, said the affidavit.
The government termed the petitioner’s contention that the steps taken by it to deal with the Covid situation do not find mention in the National Plan as “erroneous”. “The National Plan”, it said, “provides for a broad framework in order to enable national preparedness in case a disaster happens” and it “does not and cannot contain step by step instructions or specific directions for the day-to-day management by government agencies in the situation of any particular and unforeseen disaster”.
A “national plan designedly keeps” these “aspects of executive decision making open” in order to enable the government statutory functionaries and all stakeholders to take appropriate measures in dynamic and fast developing situations such as the pandemic, it said.
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