The Ministry of Home Affairs on Saturday said that it has power to exempt a non-political organisation from the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 – which regulates the acceptance of funds from abroad, The Hindu reported.

The Centre’s assertion came in response to a report published by the newspaper, which said that the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations, or PM CARES, Fund had been exempted from the provision without meeting the requirement of being set up by the government and having its accounts audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

The fund’s official website’s “frequently asked questions” section also says that it has received exemption from operation of all provisions of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010.

The home ministry told the newspaper that it had been empowered by the Parliament to exempt any non-political association or organisation from the act. The ministry added that in 2011, the the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund was exempted from all the provisions of the act and a similar relief was given to the PM CARES Fund when it was set up.

The ministry said that it can also exempt an individual from the provisions of the act, in case they are not candidates for an election.

The home ministry added that entities created by a Central or state act were also exempted. “Vide gazette notification dated 1st July, 2011, the Central government has also exempted all such entities which were created by a Central Act or a State Act and also compulsorily audited by CAG [Comptroller and Auditor General] from all provisions of the FCRA,” it said.

The exemption under the FCRA was extended to in January, 2020 to an entity “fully controlled and owned” by the Central or State governments, the home ministry added.

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The PM CARES Fund is described as a “public charitable trust” on the official website. It is registered under the Registration Act, 1908.

Opposition parties have questioned the need to create the reserve when Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund already existed. They have also expressed doubts about the fund’s transparency.

The Supreme Court had on August 18 rejected a plea to transfer the PM CARES Fund to the National Disaster Relief Fund. While disposing of the petition, the court added that there was no need for a fresh national disaster relief plan for the pandemic.

In May, the Centre 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 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.