THE Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), in response to an application filed under the Right to Information Act (RTI), 2005, informed that the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund)’ is not a ‘public authority’ under the ambit of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act.
The reply came on May 29 in response to an RTI application made by Sri Harsha Kandukuri, an LLM student at Azim Premji University Bengaluru, seeking copies of the trust deed of PM Cares Fund, and all Government orders, notifications and circulars relating to its creation and operation.
In response to an RTI application filed by @SuryaHarshaTeja, the PMO in its reply states that the PM CARES Fund isn't a public authority under the RTI Act. RTI applicant had sought Information such as trust deed, notice, notification related to creation of PM CARES fund. pic.twitter.com/8Z5rGZAs2p
— The Leaflet (@TheLeaflet_in) May 30, 2020
The PMO, however, added that the relevant information in respect of PM CARES Fund may be seen on the website pmcares.gov.in.
Section 2(h) of the RTI Act defines ‘public authority’ as follows:
“2 (h) public authority means any authority or body or institution of self government established or constituted,—
(a) by or under the Constitution;
(b) by any other law made by Parliament;
(c) by any other law made by State Legislature;
(d) by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any—
(i) body owned, controlled or substantially financed;
(ii) non‑Government Organisation substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government;”.
Speaking to The Leaflet, the RTI applicant said, ” I believe PM CARES Fund is ‘public authority’ under the Act. As per the Act, a body is a public authority, if an appropriate Government exercises substantive ‘control’ over it. By denying PM CARES fund the status of ‘public authority’, it is only reasonable to infer that it is not controlled by the Government. If that is the case, who is controlling it? The name, composition of the trust, control, usage of emblem, government domain name everything signifies that it is a public authority. By simply ruling that it’s not a public authority and denying the application of RTI Act, the Government has constructed walls of secrecy around it. “
As per the information available on pmcares.gov.in , PM CARES Fund is a public charitable trust set up keeping in mind the need for having a dedicated national fund with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation, like posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and to provide relief to the affected. It objects, according to the pmcares.gov.in website, are as follows-
- To undertake and support relief or assistance of any kind relating to a public health emergency or any other kind of emergency, calamity or distress, either man-made or natural, including the creation or upgradation of healthcare or pharmaceutical facilities, other necessary infrastructure, funding relevant research or any other type of support.
- To render financial assistance, provide grants of payments of money or take such other steps as may be deemed necessary by the Board of Trustees to the affected population.
- To undertake any other activity, which is not inconsistent with the above Objects.
Further, Prime Minister is the ex-officio Chairman of the PM CARES Fund and Minister of Defence, Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Finance, Government of India are ex-officio Trustees of the Fund.
On May 12, PM CARES Fund decided to allocate Rs. 3100 crore for the fight against COVID-19.