The Supreme Court will on Tuesday pronounce its judgment on a writ petition seeking the transfer of funds received in PM-CARES Fund to the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) to help in the fight against the pandemic.
A three-judge Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan will deliver the verdict on a PIL filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), represented by senior advocate Dushyant Dave and advocate Prashant Bhushan.
The government is of the stand that PM-CARES is a “public charitable trust” to which “anyone can contribute”. It is a “misconception” that contributions received by a public trust like PM-CARES can be transferred to a statutory fund like the National Disaster Relief Fund, the government has maintained in the Supreme Court.
Mr. Dave has argued that PM-CARES is not subject to audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General. It is not under “public scrutiny” and contributions to it are “100% tax free”.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal said corporate contributors are lured to donate to PM-CARES because they can avail of corporate social responsibility (CSR) benefits, which is not possible in the case of donations to States’ funds.
The court had also heard arguments on the need for a specific national plan to battle natural disasters and pandemics. It has reserved orders on this aspect, too.
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had already, in an affidavit, defended the existence of the PM-CARES Fund to receive “voluntary donations” as an entity separate and distinct from the NDRF.
It had explained that funds like the NDRF, formed under Section 46 of the Disaster Management Act of 2005, are provided for by the Central and State Budgets. These statutory funds do not take private contributions.