New Delhi: A plea was filed in the Delhi High Court on Thursday seeking direction to the PM CARES Fund to divulge information, including details of the money received and utilised, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act as it is a public authority. The petition was mentioned for urgent hearing through the web link and it has been listed on June 10, petitioner-advocate Surender Singh Hooda said.
The creation of the fund was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 28 and he had urged all Indians to donate to the fund to help the country fight Covid-19, the petition said.
After two months, the total corpus of the fund stands at approximately Rs 10,000 crore and the amount has been collected upon strength of the prestige lent by the office of the Prime Minister, it said.
The plea referred to the reports published in newspapers on May 31 that the PM CARES fund has refused to divulge information sought by one Harsha Kundakarni under the RTI Act, 2005 by claiming that the fund is not a 'public authority' within the ambit of Act.
"Therefore, the petitioner's or anybody else's application would also meet the same fate and hence the exercise of exhausting the remedy by filing another application and then filing appeal before the statutory authority may be dispensed with in the interest of justice," it said.
The plea, filed through advocate Aditya Hooda, sought a direction to the PM CARES Fund to divulge information under the RTI Act as it is a 'public authority' within the ambit of the Act and also a direction to the trust to display on its website the details of the money received and for what purposes it has been utilised.
"The reluctance of the trustees of the fund in divulging information as to the management of the fund raises a profoundly serious apprehension since the fund has been set up to fight Covid-19 which is a public cause. It is further unfathomable as to why such secrecy is desired when the website of the fund clearly states that all persons engaged in the management of the fund are working on a pro bono capacity and shall have no personal interest in the fund," it submitted.
It added that the corpus of Rs 10,000 crores has been created by donations largely from the Public Sector Undertakings, Central Ministries and Departments and even the salaries of armed forces personnel, civil servants and members of the judicial entities have been compulsorily donated into the fund.
"If the PM CARES fund is held not to be a public authority, it needs to be examined as to whether the public authorities at the highest level could prompt the government agencies, public servants to contribute to this fund whose details are now sought to be kept opaque," it said.
The petition said the victims of Covid-19 who desperately need the funds to fight the deadly pandemic are spread all over the country and are not in a position to enforce their fundamental right of being treated and financially supported, by the use of funds collected in the PM CARES fund.
The plea has arrayed as party the Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund, through its Chairman, Prime Minister office.
It said the Prime Minister is the ex-officio chairman of the PM CARES fund while the ministers of Defence, Home Affairs and Finance are its ex-officio trustees.