A public interest litigation (PIL) petition has been moved before the Delhi High Court seeking greater transparency in the PM CARES Fund by bringing it under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

The petition by Surender Singh Hooda cited recent newspapers reports of the PM CARES Fund refusing to divulge information sought by one Harsha Kundakarni under the RTI Act by claiming that the fund is not a ‘public authority’ within the ambit of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005.

Also read | How different is the PM CARES Fund from the PM’s National Relief Fund?

“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 a public cause,” Mr Hooda, who is also a practicing Advocate-on-Record at the Supreme Court, said.

The petition is likely to come up for hearing on June 10.

Also read | Supreme Court rejects plea against PM CARES Fund

The PM CARES Fund was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 28 and he urged all Indians to donate to the fund to help the country fight COVID-19.

“After two months, the total corpus of the fund stands at approximately ₹10,000 crore and the amount has been so collected upon strength of prestige lent by the office of the Hon’ble Prime Minister,” the plea said.

Mr. Hooda argued that the corpus had been created by donations largely from the Public Sector Undertakings, Central Ministries and Departments and even the salaries of armed forces personnel, civil servants and members of the judicial entities have been compulsorily donated into the fund.

He contended that if the PM CARES Fund was held not to be a public authority, it needed to be examined as to whether the public authorities at the highest level could prompt the government agencies, public servants to contribute to this funds whose details were now sought to be kept opaque.

“The victims of COVID-19 who desperately need funds to fight the deadly pandemic are spread all over the country and are not in a position to enforce their fundamental right of being treated and financially supported, by the use of funds collected in the PM CARES Fund,” the plea said.

Every victim of COVID-19 was interested in and had a right to know as to how much fund had been collected and how the same was being expended or was planned to be expended, it said.

The members of public who had contributed also have a right to know how the funds were being utilised, it added.

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