Court refused to transfer money for COVID-19 relief fund in PM cares fund to NDRF: Supreme Court of India

Contributions made to PM Cares Fund are voluntary and there is no statutory prohibition on contributions made to National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) held by the bench of Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice MR Shah in Centre for Public Interest Litigation V. Union of India (Writ Petition (C) No. 546 of 2020).

The facts relate to this petition is: writ petition filed as public interest litigation has been filed in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic, seeking direction to the Union of India to prepare, notify and implement a National Plan under Section 11 read with Section 10 of the Act, 2005 to deal with current pandemic (Covid-19) and to lay down 11 minimum standards of relief under Section 12 of the Act, 2005 to be provided to persons affected with COVID-19. Petitioners have also sought for directions to utilize National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) for the purposes of providing assistance in the fight against COVID-19 and all the contributions/grants from individuals/institutions be credited in NDRF and not to PM CARES Fund and all funds collected in PM CARES Fund till date should be directed to be transferred to NDRF.

 The Hon’ble Court observed that the funds collected in the PM CARES Fund are entirely different funds to the NDRF. The Hon’ble Court while dismissing the appeal held that the NDRF is a statutory fund set up to assist States and is required to be audited by the CAG while the PM Cares fund was set up as a public charitable trust when the COVD-19 pandemic hit.

With regard to the petitioner’s prayer for laying down the minimum standard of relief, the Hon’ble Court held that the guidelines issued u/s 12 of the Disaster Management Act providing for the minimum standard of relief hold good for COVID-19 pandemic as well.

In effect of the Hon’ble Supreme Court holding PM Cares as a public authority, no citizen can obtain details pertaining to the fund through the RTI route. It was also said by Hon’ble Court the funds collected in the PM CARES Fund were entirely different funds which were funds of public charitable trust and there was no occasion for issuing any direction to transfer the said funds to the NDRF.                         

So, finally, the prayer of the petitioner to direct all the funds collected in the PM CARES Fund to date to be transferred to the NDRF is refused and the writ petition was dismissed.

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Judgement reviewed by-Sarita Kumari

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