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Judiciary

Every Citizen Has the Right to Know About Funds Collected by PM CARES: PIL In Bombay HC Seeks Auditing Of PM CARES By CAG [READ ORDER]

By Parth Thummar      03 June, 2020 01:50 PM      0 Comments
Every Citizen Has the Right to Know About Funds Collected by PM CARES

A Public Interest Litigation has been filed by Arvind K. Waghmare, an Advocate before the High Court of Judicature at Bombay, Nagpur Bench making PM Cares Fund (Prime Ministers Citizens Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situation), A Public Charitable Trust Created by Union Cabinet of India respondent among the others. In the PIL, the petitioner has sought a direction to respondents to nominate 3 independent trustees to the “PM Cares Fund” immediately and assign the auditing of it to the Comptroller General of India rather than any independent auditing agency. He also prayed to direct respondents to make the data of the fund received and utilized the public to inspire the confidence of the public.  

“PM Cares Fund” in the backdrop of COVID-19 was created by the Union Cabinet on March 28, 2020. The Hon’ble Prime Minister of India is the Chairperson and Ministers of Defence, Home and Finance have been made ex-officio Board of Trustees and the Chairperson was granted with the power to nominate as many as 3 Board of Trustees from the field of Research, Health, Science, Law, Social Work, Public Administration, and Philanthropy.

The petitioner had made it clear at the outset that he was not challenging and or disputing the creation of the public Trust in the name and style as “PM Cares Fund” on any ground, whether constitutional or otherwise. But he submitted that being the citizen of India and also a small donor to the “PM Cares Fund” he had every right to know the exact position of the account of the “PM Cares Fund”. 

He has contended that the moment the Public Trust is created it requires full creative strength and so far as the “PM Cares Fund” is concerned till date, respondents had not nominated 3 Trustees on the “PM Cares Fund” and without there being full Board of Trustees the trust is created and made operational w.e.f. from March 28, 2020, which is against the settled judicial norms and therefore, it was necessary to immediately direct the respondents to process the nomination of the other three board of trustees on the “PM Cares Fund”. He further submitted that it was necessary to direct the respondents to appoint- nominate as many as two Board of Trustees from the members of Opposition Parties in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

He further submitted that despite having Lakhs and Crores of rupees in the “PM Cares Fund”, the most unprivileged class of the country, which is having a population of than 50% was not taken proper care of. It was also submitted that the people of the country, organization, corporations employees had generously donated to the “PM Cares Fund”, but as per objectives of the trust and more particularly the objective no. 2 (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.) it seemed that the trust had failed to provide necessary assistance to the affected population of the country.

He further prayed to direct the respondents to make public the amount generated in “PM Cares Fund” by uploading the data on the official website of pmcares.gov.in, in order to strengthen the Trust, Confidence, and Trustworthiness, because due to Lapse of the number of days, no such data in respect of accumulation of amount in total from all sources were not declared by the respondents, the confidence of the General Public of the country was. 

He further submitted that the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) is empowered to audit all expenses from the combined fund of the Union and State and is the topmost Auditor Agency of the Country having credential and trustworthiness and therefore, to nominate independent auditors in place of topmost agency of the Government will amount to degrading the authority of the topmost audit body of the country and therefore, the respondent is directed to consider this prayer positively and also considering the high profile national dedicated fund created for the combat the Corona Virus Pandemic in India.

As a matter of fact, a few days back a Right to Information (RTI) response received by a lawyer Abhay Gupta had stated that the Fund does not come under the scope of "public authority" under Right to Information Act, 2005, as such it is not a Public Authority under the ambit of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act.

 

[READ ORDER



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