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Appellate Authority also says PM CARES not public authority

The Deputy Secretary, PMO reiterated the stand of the CPIO while disposing the appeal seeking information on PM CARES Fund

Sabrangindia 01 Jul 2020

PM care fund

Among the many RTI applications seeking details on the PM CARES Fund, was one filed by social activist Saket Gokhale. He was also denied the information, on June 5, by the Central Public Information officer (CPIO) stating that Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund) is not a public authority. In his application filed on March 29, Gokhale had sought copy of the trust deed and trustees of the fund and also exemption certificates granted to it under section 12A and 80G of the Income Tax Act.

LiveLaw reported that not being satisfied with this response, he filed statutory appeal under the RTI Act while pointing out that the Prime Minister is the ex-officio Chairman of the Fund while Under Secretary (Funds) of the PMO was the honorary custodian of the matters related to the fund. He also highlighted in his appeals that even public sector utilities such as Indian Railways have contributed to the fund which makes it a public authority as per its definition under the RTI Act, which states that any entity which is substantially financed directly or indirectly by the government is a public authority.

As per the Act a public authority means any authority, body or institution of self-government established or constituted 

a) by or under the constitution; 

b) by any other law made by parliament; 

c) by any other law made by the state legislature and 

d) by notification issued or order made by the appropriate government. It also includes “body owned, controlled or substantially financed; non-governmental organisation substantially financed directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate government”.

The Appellate Authority in this case was the Deputy Secretary, PMO which dismissed the appeal without specifically addressing the arguments raised in the appeal. The same reason given by the CPIO was given by the appellate authority stating that PM CARES fund is not a public authority and hence no information can be shared thus making the appellate procedure effectively moot.

The appellate authority asked Gokhale to approach the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) if he was not satisfied with the authority’s decision.

There are two petitions in Delhi High Court pertaining to the PM CARES fund. One plea in Delhi High Court seeks a direction to the trustees of Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) fund to display on its website the amount collected so far and how the fund has been utilized. The other petition is filed by Samyak Gangwal who challenged the rejection of information on PM CARES fund by the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) in response to an RTI application.

The Supreme Court has previously dismissed two petitions challenging the validity of the PM CARES fund.  Currently a PIL is pending before the apex court seeking directions that the Centre transfers all contributions of the PM CARES Fund to the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) in accordance with the Disaster Management Act. There is also a petition is pending before the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court seeking transparency and an audit of the fund by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

Related:

Delhi HC: SG to file reply to petition challenging PMO response denying PM CARES info under RTI

Plea in SC demanding transfer of funds from PM CARES to NDRF

Is PM CARES a public authority or not?

Plea in Delhi HC seeking directions to get PM CARES under RTI Act

Appellate Authority also says PM CARES not public authority

The Deputy Secretary, PMO reiterated the stand of the CPIO while disposing the appeal seeking information on PM CARES Fund

PM care fund

Among the many RTI applications seeking details on the PM CARES Fund, was one filed by social activist Saket Gokhale. He was also denied the information, on June 5, by the Central Public Information officer (CPIO) stating that Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund) is not a public authority. In his application filed on March 29, Gokhale had sought copy of the trust deed and trustees of the fund and also exemption certificates granted to it under section 12A and 80G of the Income Tax Act.

LiveLaw reported that not being satisfied with this response, he filed statutory appeal under the RTI Act while pointing out that the Prime Minister is the ex-officio Chairman of the Fund while Under Secretary (Funds) of the PMO was the honorary custodian of the matters related to the fund. He also highlighted in his appeals that even public sector utilities such as Indian Railways have contributed to the fund which makes it a public authority as per its definition under the RTI Act, which states that any entity which is substantially financed directly or indirectly by the government is a public authority.

As per the Act a public authority means any authority, body or institution of self-government established or constituted 

a) by or under the constitution; 

b) by any other law made by parliament; 

c) by any other law made by the state legislature and 

d) by notification issued or order made by the appropriate government. It also includes “body owned, controlled or substantially financed; non-governmental organisation substantially financed directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate government”.

The Appellate Authority in this case was the Deputy Secretary, PMO which dismissed the appeal without specifically addressing the arguments raised in the appeal. The same reason given by the CPIO was given by the appellate authority stating that PM CARES fund is not a public authority and hence no information can be shared thus making the appellate procedure effectively moot.

The appellate authority asked Gokhale to approach the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) if he was not satisfied with the authority’s decision.

There are two petitions in Delhi High Court pertaining to the PM CARES fund. One plea in Delhi High Court seeks a direction to the trustees of Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) fund to display on its website the amount collected so far and how the fund has been utilized. The other petition is filed by Samyak Gangwal who challenged the rejection of information on PM CARES fund by the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) in response to an RTI application.

The Supreme Court has previously dismissed two petitions challenging the validity of the PM CARES fund.  Currently a PIL is pending before the apex court seeking directions that the Centre transfers all contributions of the PM CARES Fund to the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) in accordance with the Disaster Management Act. There is also a petition is pending before the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court seeking transparency and an audit of the fund by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

Related:

Delhi HC: SG to file reply to petition challenging PMO response denying PM CARES info under RTI

Plea in SC demanding transfer of funds from PM CARES to NDRF

Is PM CARES a public authority or not?

Plea in Delhi HC seeking directions to get PM CARES under RTI Act

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