Covid-19: Existence of disaster management fund no bar for creating PM CARES fund, Centre tells SC
It also opposed the suggestion that the contributions should be transferred to the National Disaster Response Fund.
The Centre on Thursday justified the creation of the PM CARES fund and said that the mere existence of a statutory fund under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, would not prohibit the setting up of a different one that provides for voluntary donations, Live Law reported. It also opposed the suggestion that the contributions be transferred to the National Disaster Response Fund arguing that all funds other than the funds stipulated under the Act are created under separate provisions.
The Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations was created on March 28 in response to the coronavirus crisis. The prime minister is the fund’s chairperson and senior cabinet members serve as trustees. Opposition parties have questioned the need to create the reserve when Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund is already in existence. They had also expressed doubts about the fund’s transparency.
The Centre filed the response to a petition filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation, a non-governmental organisation. The plea sought transfer of funds from PM CARES fund to National Disaster Response Fund for relief works in combating the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, objected to this and said that under Section 46 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, the NDRF consists of funds in the form of budgetary provisions made by the central and state governments without any private contributions. “But the PM CARES fund on the other hand, is one such fund, which accepts voluntary donations as well,” the Centre contended. “The affidavit states that mere existence of a statutory fund would not prohibit creation of a different fund like PM CARES fund which provides for voluntary donations.”
The affidavit argued that the demand to direct the Centre to transfer the funds received by PM CARES Fund to NDRF is neither maintainable on merits nor under Article 32 [of the Constitution] as “all funds other than the funds stipulated under section 46 of DM Act, 2005 are separate, different and distinct, created separately under separate provisions”. Article 32 of the Indian Constitution gives the right to individuals to move to the Supreme Court to seek justice.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MR Shah took the Centre’s affidavit on record and asked Mehta to serve the copy of it to senior advocates Kapil Sibal and AM Singhvi, appearing for the NGO, by Friday evening.