The Supreme Court may have dismissed the petition seeking the transfer of contributions to PM CARES fund for Covid relief to the National Disaster Response Fund, but the verdict will be “contested” in academic circles and it leaves a question mark on the transparency and management of the fund, Congress leader and former Union finance minister P Chidambaram said.
He sought details of the amount in the fund, the donors and the beneficiaries. He wanted to know if Chinese firms had contributed to the fund.
The “Supreme Court has delivered a judgement on the legality and legal accountability of PM CARES FUND. The judgement is final but will be contested for a long time in academic circles,” he said in a series of tweets.
Supreme Court has delivered a judgement on the legality and legal accountability of PM-CARES FUND. The judgement is final but will be contested for a long time in academic circles.
— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) August 19, 2020
“There are other aspects of PM CARES FUND on which the Supreme Court had no occasion to pronounce judgement. These are transparency, disclosure and management practices concerning the Fund,” he said.
The Supreme Court said the government is free to transfer the fund to the NDRF if it feels that is right. The fund is “entirely different” and has been established as a charitable trust, the court said, rejecting a petition filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) demanding the transfer of funds from PM CARES Fund to the NDRF. “Funds in PM CARES cannot be directed to be deposited to NDRF,” the court said.
“Who are the donors who gave Rs 3,076 crore in the first five days (after the fund was launched) in March 2020? Do they include Chinese firms? What is the amount received since April 1, 2020, and who are the donors?” Chidambaram said.
In the aftermath of the Galwan clash in June, India has imposed many restrictions on Chinese companies and apps and also on imports from China.
In his tweets, Chidambaram also said, “Are utilisation certificates (UC) demanded and received from the recipients? If the Fund is beyond the ambit of RTI, who will answer these vital questions?”
The PMO has said that the fund doesn’t fall under the ambit of the RTI Act. In response to an RTI application filed in April seeking details of the fund, the PMO said details about PM CARES need not be divulged under the RTI Act, 2005, as it is not a public authority.
The Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situation (PM CARES) Fund was set up March 27 after the Covid pandemic struck India, with the Prime Minister as the chairman. The fund’s aim is to deal with any public health or other kinds of emergencies and disasters such as Covid and to promote relevant research.