The apex court also rejected Prashant Bhushan’s plea that Centre should have framed a fresh national disaster management plan for Covid-19, and it should have not relied on the national plan
NEW DELHI – The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a plea to transfer all contributions made to PM-Cares Fund to National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF), , a statutory fund created under Disaster Management Act (DM Act) of 2005. The apex court also ruled that the PM-Cares Fund set up by the central government was not in violation of the said Act.
A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and M.R. Shah held that the two funds can exist separately and individuals and organisations are free to contribute to NDRF but funds from PM Cares need not be transferred to NDRF.
“PM Cares Fund is an entirely different fund established as a public charitable trust. Funds in PM Cares cannot be directed to be deposited to NDRF,” the bench observed.
While disposing of the petition, Supreme Court said, no need for fresh national disaster relief plan. https://t.co/zp3A1rejHc
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The PM Cares Fund was set up by the Central government on March 28 as a public charitable trust with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation such as that posed by Covid-19 pandemic.
The petitioner NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), had claimed that PM Cares Fund was set up in violation of the legal mandate under the DM Act as per which any grant made by any person or institution for the purpose of disaster management should be compulsorily credited to NDRF.
The top court also said that there was no need for a fresh national disaster relief plan for Covid-19 pandemic, and minimum standards of relief issued under Disaster Management Act were sufficient.
On June 17, the apex court had issued notice to the Centre on a PIL seeking to transfer funds from PM Cares Fund to National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF).
Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), in the plea claimed that in the backdrop of Covid-19 pandemic, NDRF is not being utilized by the authorities, and establishing the PM CARES Fund is outside the scope of the Disaster Management Act.
“Even though there is a provision for NDRF under Section 46 of the Disaster Management Act, the central government has come up with a PM Cares Fund. All the contributions being made by individuals and institutions in relation to Covid-19 crisis are being credited into the PM Cares Fund and not to the NDRF, in clear violation of Section 46 of the DM Act,” the petitioner submitted.
In its affidavit before the top court in July 8, the Centre had rebutted this argument by stating that PM Cares is a fund established to carry out relief work and several such funds have been established on similar lines in the past.
“Mere existence of a statutory fund (NDRF) would not prohibit creation of a different fund like PM Cares Fund which provides for voluntary donations,” the affidavit said.
The petitioner through their counsel, senior advocate Dushyant Dave, had pointed out that PM Cares Fund was not being audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) but by private auditors.
“This government believes in transparency. Why should private auditors audit it (PM Cares)? NDRF, under DM Act, is audited by CAG,” Dave said.
The bench had reserved its judgment in the case on July 27.
The bench also rejected advocate Prashant Bhushan’s plea that Centre should have framed a fresh national disaster management plan for Covid-19, and it should have not relied on the national plan, which was formulated in December 2019, focusing on tackling the biological disaster.
– With input from IANS