The Centre on Tuesday requested the Bombay High Court to dismiss a petition seeking that the donations and expenditure of the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund, or PM CARES fund, – created to tackle the coronavirus pandemic – be made public, PTI reported.
The petition, filed by a lawyer, asked the government to declare the receipts and expenditure of the fund on the official website periodically.
The petitioner also alleged that no trustees had been appointed to the fund since its creation in March, even though guidelines specified that three more people had to be brought on board. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the chairperson of the fund and ministers from departments of defence, home and finance are its members. The petitioner demanded that the government appoint or nominate at least two members from opposition parties for transparency.
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Appearing for the Centre, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh told the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court that the petition should be dismissed since a similar plea against setting up of the PM CARES fund had been rejected by the Supreme Court in April.
The bench, however, told Singh that the current petition was seeking different details and directed him to file an affidavit in response to the plea within two weeks.
Several questions have been raised about the transparency of the PM CARES Fund. Opposition parties have also repeatedly questioned the need to create the reserve when Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund is already in existence.
Last week, the Prime Minister’s Office had refused to provide details about the PM CARES Fund to a Right to Information applicant, saying that the reserve was not a “public authority” under the RTI Act. In April, the government had said that the fund will not be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India since it was based on donations of individuals and organisations.