Plea in HC wants PM-CARES Fund under RTI ambit

New Delhi (IANS) Calling the PM-CARES Fund a "public authority", a plea has been filed before the Delhi High Court seeking the court's directions for divulging its information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.

The plea filed by Supreme Court Advocate on Record Dr S.S. Hooda is likely to come up for hearing on June 10.

The petitioner cited recent media reports of the entity refusing to divulge information sought by one Harsha Kundakarni under the RTI Act.

PM-CARES Fund while declining Kundakarni's request stated that "it is not a public authority" within the ambit of section 2(h) of the RTI Act.

The said section defines the term "public authority" saying it means "any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted by or under the Constitution; by any other law made by Parliament; by any other law made by State Legislature; by notification issued or order made by the appropriate government."

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The plea said that it was clear from the facts and circumstances pertaining to the Constitution, administration, location, donations from government bodies that PM-CARES is both controlled and substantially financed by the government and in the least is controlled by the government.

"Therefore, the citizens of the country have a right to be informed about the management of such a large corpus of Rs 10,000 crore which has been collected from government undertaking, ministries, departments as well as contributed by private individuals and corporations upon appeal made by the Hon'ble Prime Minister and under the faith that such donations would be used for the intents and purposes for which the donations have been made," the plea said.

"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 is a public cause. It is further unfathomable as to why such secrecy is desired when the website of the fund clearly states that all persons engaged in the management of the fund are working on a pro bono capacity and shall have no personal interest in the fund," it submitted.

The PM-CARES Fund was formed on March 27 this year, three days into the lockdown, and is headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Other ex-officio members of the trust are Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

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