NEW DELHI: The Centre on Tuesday told the Delhi High Court that PM CARES Fund does not come under direct or indirect control of either the central or any state governments, and neither this trust is created by the Constitution or any law, nor it is owned, controlled or financed by any government.
The PM CARES Fund is not a government fund as donations to it do not go to the Consolidated Fund of India and no third party information can be provided the Right to Information (RTI) Act, it said.
A written document filed by Pradeep Kumar Srivastava, Under Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), who is discharging his functions in the PM Cares Trust on honorary basis, has said the trust functions with transparency and its funds are audited by an auditor, a chartered accountant drawn from the panel prepared by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
Irrespective of the status of Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund) under the Constitution and the RTI Act, it is not permissible to disclose third party information, the reply maintained.
"There is no control of either the central or any state governments, direct or indirect, in functioning of the PM Cares Fund in any manner whatsoever. This Trust is not created by the Constitution or any law. It is not owned, controlled or financed by any government," it said.
The reply was filed to a plea for a direction to declare the PM CARES Fund a 'State' under the Constitution to ensure transparency in its functioning.
Another plea sought a declaration for PM CARES Fund as a "public authority" under the RTI Act.
A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad heard the arguments on behalf of petitioner Samyak Gangwal.
The court asked the office of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to inform the court about his availability to argue the case.
The affidavit contended the petition was not maintainable as PM CARES does not constitute a "public authority" under the provisions of RTI Act.
“The PM CARES Fund has been set up as a Public Charitable Trust. This Trust is not created by or under the Constitution of India or by any law made by the Parliament or by any State Legislature," it said.
It further said contributions made to PM CARES Fund are only voluntary donations by individuals or institutions. The contributions are exempt under the Income Tax Act, but that in itself doesn’t justify that it is a “public authority” under the RTI Act.
The composition of the Board of Trustees for the PM CARES Fund consisting of public officials is merely for administrative convenience and is not intended to be any form of governmental control in the functioning of the Trust in any manner whatsoever, it added.