The Supreme Court will pronounce its judgment on Tuesday in a plea asking that all contributions made to PM Cares fund till date be transferred to the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), a statutory fund created under section 46 of the Disaster Management Act of 2005 (DM Act).
The verdict, which will be pronounced by a three-judge bench headed by justice Ashok Bhushan, will also decide whether the PM Cares Fund violates the legal provisions contained in the DM Act.
The petitioner NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) claimed that PM Cares Fund was set up in violation of the legal mandate under the DM Act as per which any grant made by any person or institution for the purpose of disaster management should be compulsorily credited to NDRF.
The PM Cares Fund was set up by the central government on March 28 as a public charitable trust with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation such as that posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Even though there is a provision for NDRF under Section 46 of the Disaster Management Act, the central government has come up with a PM-CARES Fund. All the contribution being made by individuals and institutions in relation to COVID-19 crisis are being credited into the PM CARES Fund and not to the NDRF, in clear violation of Section 46 of the DM Act,” the petitioner submitted.
The central government said in its affidavit on July 8 that the PM Cares is a fund established to carry out relief work and there are several such funds established on similar lines in the past.
“Mere existence of a statutory fund (NDRF) would not prohibit creation of a different fund like PM Cares Fund which provides for voluntary donations,” the affidavit said.
During the hearing before the apex court, the central government through solicitor general Tushar Mehta, defended the PM Cares fund, saying that it was not intended to circumvent the NDRF as alleged by the petitioners. “Whatever amount that has to go to NDRF under the law will go (to NDRF). PM Cares is a public charitable trust. If private individuals want to donate, they can do so. There are several public charitable trusts getting donations,” Mehta argued.
The bench, which also comprised justices R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah, reserved its judgment in the case on July 27. Another petition against PM Cares Fund filed by Rajasthan government in June, is also pending before the Supreme Court.