A plea was filed in the Delhi High Court on Thursday, seeking direction to the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund to divulge information, including details of the money received and utilised, under the Right to Information Act, PTI reported. Petitioner and advocate Surinder Singh Hooda said the plea has been listed for urgent hearing on June 10.
The plea cited newspaper reports that said that the government had refused to divulge information about the fund to an RTI petitioner, claiming that it is not a public authority, The Hindu reported. “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 a public cause,” Hooda, who is a practicing advocate-on-record at the Supreme Court, said.
The plea said the fund was announced on March 28, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged Indians to donate to help in the fight against the novel coronavirus. “After two months, the total corpus of the fund stands at approximately Rs 10,000 crore and the amount has been so collected upon strength of prestige lent by the office of the hon’ble prime minister,” the plea said.
Hooda argued that most of the donations to the fund had come from public sector undertaking, central ministries and departments, as well as the salaries of Armed Forces personnel, civil servants and members of judicial bodies. He said these donations had been compulsory, and that these individuals and entities have a right to know how the money is being utilised.
“The victims of Covid-19 who desperately need 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 said. It added that every person who has been diagnosed with the coronavirus was interested in and had a right to know as to how much fund had been collected and how it was being used.
On June 2, the Centre requested the Bombay High Court to dismiss another petition seeking that the donations and expenditure of the PM CARES fund be made public. 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.