Centre defends PM CARES fund in SC, says the existence of statutory funds for relief work like National and States’ disaster response funds do not prohibit other funds which accept voluntary donations.
PM Narendra Modi during a Cabinet meet on July 8 (Photo Credits: PTI)
The Central government on Thursday asserted that funds received as voluntary donations in PM CARES fund cannot be shifted to the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF) accounts, as the funds have been created under different laws.
In response to a PIL seeking better coordination of relief efforts, the Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA) affidavit defended the decision to create PM CARES fund as a separate entity, stating that NDRF accounts under the Disaster Management Act are a budgetary provision and have nothing to do with private contributions.
The PIL, filed by the Center for Public Interest Litigation, had questioned why a separate opaque fund was created for contributions when the NDRF and the PM Relief Fund already exist. While the affidavit does not address the PM Fund or state relief funds, it has drawn a clear distinction between the NDRF as a budgetary provision and other funds that allow for private donations.
“There are several funds which are either established earlier or now for carrying out various relief works. PM CARES is one such fund with voluntary donations,” says the MHA’s affidavit, adding that “mere existence of a statutory fund would not prohibit the creation of a different fund”.
The MHA has also said that the plea to credit donations received by PM CARES to the NDRF is “neither maintainable on merits nor is otherwise maintainable under Article 32 as all funds other than funds stipulated under section 46 of the DM Act 2005 are separate, different and distinct created separately under separate provisions”.
The Government of India has also opposed the argument raised by petitioners over setting up minimum standards of relief work for the entire country. “While guidelines have been issued for standards of relief work, healthcare, social distancing, etc, specific COVID guidelines under the DM Act could not have been created earlier as the disease itself is unexpected,” the affidavit says.
It goes on to add that “the entire world has faced this phenomenon with differing intensity” and a multi-pronged approach was necessary to “tailor the response of the nation in tune with the evolving nature of the virus”.
The government has also argued that it is highly inadvisable to prescribe a nationwide rigid model to approach the management of the outbreak in India.