'PM CARES not a public authority under RTI Act': PMO rejects application seeking fund details; will appeal, says law student

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) rejected a RTI application seeking details on the creation and operation of the PM-CARES Fund, stating that the fund is not a public authority, a Live Law report said

FP Staff May 31, 2020 15:54:37 IST
'PM CARES not a public authority under RTI Act': PMO rejects application seeking fund details; will appeal, says law student

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has rejected a Right to Information (RTI) application seeking details of the PM CARES Fund, stating that the fund is not a public authority under the Act, Live Law reported.

Harsha Kandukuri, a law student at Azim Premji University in Bengaluru, filed an RTI application on 1 April, asking for the fund’s trust deed and all government orders, notifications and circulars relating to its creation and operation, as per a report in The Hindu.

On not receiving a response, he filed an appeal to get a response on 29 May. The PMO then told Kandukuri in its reply that the information cannot be revealed under the provisions of Section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, as per the report.

PM CARES not a public authority under RTI Act PMO rejects application seeking fund details will appeal says law student

File photo of Narendra Modi during a national address concerning the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown. ANI

“PM CARES Fund is not a Public Authority under the ambit of Secon 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005. However, relevant information in respect of PM CARES Fund may be seen on the Website pmcares.gov.in,” the PMO replied, as per LiveLaw.

The reply also stated that “relevant information in respect of PM CARES Fund may be seen on the website pmcares.gov.in". However, the copies of the trust deed, and the government orders/notifications relating to the PM CARES Fund are not seen uploaded in the official website of the fund, according to Live Law.

Kandukuri plans to appeal further. "The name, composition of the trust, control, usage of emblem, government domain name, everything signifies that it is a public authority. The composition of the trust is enough to show that government exercises substantive control over the trust, making it a public authority," Kandukuria told The Hindu. The prime minister is the ex-officio chairman of the Trust, while three cabinet ministers are ex-officio trustees.

Under the RTI Act, a public authority is an organisation established (a) under or by the Constitution, (b) by any other law made by the parliament, (c) by a notification or order issued by the government or (d) by notification issued or order made by the appropriate government. The definition also covers organisations financed substantially by the government and non-governmental organisations.

In April, the government said that the fund will not be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India since it was based on donations of individuals and organisations.

Also in April, the PMO, citing a Supreme Court observation that “indiscriminate and impractical demands under RTI Act for disclosure of all and sundry information would be counterproductive”, rejected an RTI on the fund details filed by activist Vikrant Togad.

The Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund was set up on 28 March in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic to provide relief to those impacted by the outbreak. Many citizens have come forward to donate to the fund.

 

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