Defending the formation of PM-CARES fund, the Centre Thursday told the Supreme Court that the existence of the statutory National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF) “would not prohibit the creation of a different fund”.
In an affidavit filed before the apex court on PM-CARES fund, the central government said, “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. It is submitted that there exist a fund stipulated under section 46 of the DMA which is called NDR Fund. However, mere existence of a statutory fund would not prohibit in creation of a different fund like PM Cares Fund which provides for voluntary donations.”
The Centre’s response in the top court comes after a PIL was filed by an NGO seeking transfer of funds from PM-CARES to NDRF.
The petition urged the court to direct the government to prepare, notify and implement a national plan under the Disaster Management Act to deal with the pandemic. It claimed that the Centre has been “refraining from divulging information” about the money “contributed to the PM CARES Fund till date”.
The central government also apprised the court that the transfer of funds received in PM-CARES to NDRF is “not maintainable” as the former is created under separate provisions.
“It is submitted that a prayer being made seeking a direction of this Hon’ble court under Article 32 of the Consitution of India directing the funds received by PM Cares Fund to be credited to NDRF 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 Centre told the SC.
The Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM-CARES) Fund was set up in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. The fund has been subject to scrutiny from Opposition parties that say details of the funds must be made public.
Earlier this month, the Congress party had accused the government of “wasting” lockdown by not ramping up health infrastructure and procuring “substandard” ventilators that are crucial for critical COVID-19 patients, with Rahul Gandhi charging that “opacity” in the PM-Cares Fund is putting lives of Indians at risk.
The Congress leader in a tweet had said: “PMCares opacity is: 1. Putting Indian lives at risk. 2. Ensuring public money is used to buy sub-standard products.” He had also tagged a news report about a private firm providing substandard ventilators, procured using the PM CARES-Fund.
Meanwhile, the CPM too raised questions on procurement of ventilators using the PM-CARES fund and demanded that the details of the fund must be made public and subjected to public scrutiny. The party also demanded that the fund must immediately be transferred to state governments who are at the frontline combating the coronavirus pandemic.
The CPM said the stubborn refusal of the Prime Minister’s Office to disclose the details of the PM-CARES Fund was deeply disturbing.
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