Confusion prevails over the status of PM-CARES fund as the Centre, in response to a recent Right to Information (RTI) application, said it is a public entity as it was “established by the government”, in contradiction to claim of the fund’s website, which says it is a private entity.
“This fund is completely financed by donations received from individuals/organisations/CSRs (Corporates)/foreign individuals/foreign organisations/PSUs and not at all financed by the appropriate government and administered by private individuals as trustees, which is a compulsory condition to invoke section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act, therefore, PM CARES fund cannot be considered a public authority,” the RTI reply of December 24 says, NDTV reported.
Thee fund is owned and controlled by the government. However, it cannot be subject to the RTI Act, as the donations it receives are private, the government argued.
In contrast, a trust deed under which the fund was established on March 27 said it was not owned or controlled by the government.
The government argument is that while the fund has been designated as a government entity that receives crores from various donors, it is not bound to disclose them as required for such organisations.
The Prime Minister is the chairperson of PM-CARES trust and senior ministers are trustees. However, the trust deed made public recently on the fund’s website did not define it as a government trust.
PM-CARES or the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund was set up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March to “deal with emergency or distress situations like the coronavirus pandemic”.
The trust deed said: “The trust is neither intended to be or is, in fact, owned, controlled or substantially financed by any government or any instrumentality of the government. There is no control of either the central government or any state governments, either direct or indirect, in the functioning of the trust in any manner whatsoever.”
The Ministry of Corporate Affairs terms PM-CARES as a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative to receive corporate donations, which made it a government entity. The trust deed, however, states it was not government-run, so PM-CARES could not have been eligible for corporate donations.