Samyak Gangwal’s petition, represented by Senior Advocate Shyam Divan, was filed to declare the PM CARES Fund a state under the Constitution to ensure transparency in its operation.
On Tuesday, July 12, the Delhi High Court objected to the Centre’s filing of a one-page response on “such an important matter” of the PM CARES Fund on which a motion was filed to declare it a State under of the Constitution in order to ensure the transparency of its functioning.
Observing that the matter regarding the Prime Minister’s Citizens Emergency Relief and Assistance Fund (PM CARES Fund) is “not so simple”, the High Court asked the Center to file a detailed response and comprehensive in this regard.
“You filed a response. An answer page to such an important issue? Nothing beyond that? Such a big issue and a one page answer. There is not even a whisper of what the lead attorney (for the petitioner) is arguing. You file an answer. The question is not so simple. We want a detailed response,” said a bench consisting of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad.
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The High Court was informed by counsel for the Center that a detailed response had already been filed in a similar petition by the same petitioner. Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, said that all these points raised by the petitioner are relevant to be decided. The Chief Justice responded, learned SG let a proper comprehensive response be filed because this case will definitely go to the Supreme Court and we need to decide and render judgment and deal with all issues raised. The bench said a detailed and comprehensive response be filed in four weeks. The rejoinder, if any, must be filed within two weeks.
Petitioner Samyak Gangwal, represented by lead attorney Shyam Divan, in the petition filed in 2021, had sought to declare the PM CARES Fund a state under Section 12 of the Constitution and to order the fund to periodically disclose its audit reports on the PM CARES website.
The High Court had previously notified the Center of the application. Another motion filed by the same petitioner in 2020 to declare PM CARES a public authority under the Right to Information (RTI) Act is also pending before the court which had previously requested the Centre’s response to the matter. .
In the 2021 petition, he also asked for the instruction to disclose funds deposited quarterly, on the PM CARES website, and details of donations received by it, which must include the name of each donor.
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An affidavit filed by an Under-Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) who serves the PM Cares Trust on an honorary basis in response to the 2021 petition said the trust operates with transparency and its funds are audited by an auditor — a chartered accountant from the panel prepared by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
He maintained that regardless of the status of the PM CARES Fund under the Constitution and the RTI Act, it is not permitted to disclose third party information. In support of his claim that the PM CARES Fund is a state, the petitioner stated that it was established by the Prime Minister on March 27, 2020 for a noble purpose, namely to provide assistance to Indian citizens in the following the public health emergency, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The trustees of the fund are the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence, Minister of Interior and Minister of Finance, and immediately after the establishment of the fund, the Centre, through its senior officials, declared that the fund had been created and managed by the government. .
The Representations also included the use of government resources such as the use of the hyperlink “http://gov.in” gov.in domain name, the state emblem of India and the name of the Prime Minister and his abbreviation on the PM Cares Fund website and in other official and unofficial communications. Also, the official address of the PM CARES Fund has been declared to be Prime Minister’s Office South Block, New Delhi, he said.
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Based on the representations, huge donations were received by the PM CARES Fund and according to the information provided on its website during the financial year 2019-2020, an amount of Rs. 3076.62 crores was collected in just four days, he said.
The petitioner does not attribute or even allege any wrongdoing on the part of the current ex-officio administrators of the PM CARES Fund. However, since the trustees of the PM CARES funds are senior government officials, it is essential that the checks and balances contemplated in Part III of the Constitution be put in place on the operation of the fund to extinguish any possibility of any claim of quid pro quo. , it said.
In his alternate prayers, Gangwal sought to direct the Center to make it clear that the PM CARES Fund is not an Indian government fund and to stop PM CARES from using the Prime Minister of India or the Prime Minister, including his abbreviations, its name, on its website, deed of trust and other official or unofficial communications and advertisements.
The Center said that all donations received by the trust are received via online payments, checks or demand drafts, and the amount received is verified with the audited report and expenditures of the trust fund posted on the website. .
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The officer, who filed the affidavit, also stated that he carried out his duties with the PM CARES Trust on an honorary basis, which was a charitable trust not created by or under the Constitution or by an Act passed by Parliament or any State Legislature. .
(With agency contributions)