NEW DELHI: A Public Interest Litigation has been moved in the Delhi High court seeking transparency in PM-CARES Fund and a direction to reveal information under the Right Information (RTI) Act, 2005.
The plea stated PM-CARES is a 'public authority' within the ambit of Section 2(h) of the said that the Act and a direction to the trust to display on its website the details of the money received and for what purposes it has been utilised.
The PIL was filed by SS Hooda through Advocate Aditya Hooda seeking transparency in PM-CARES Fund, and to display details of money received and for which purposes the amount has been used in its website.
In the plea, Hooda said that anybody that is "owned", "controlled" or "substantially financed" by the Government qualifies as a public authority under the RTI Act.
He said that the government-controlled as well as substantially financed the PM-CARES Fund.
According to the petition, the Prime Minister is the ex-officio chairman of PM-CARES fund while the ministers of Defence, Home Affairs and Finance are its ex-officio trustees. The Chairman and trustees of the fund further have the power to appoint three additional trustees. The Rules/criteria for spending the funds of the trust shall be formulated by the Prime Minister and the three ministers aforementioned."
The petitioner COVID-19 victims have a "right to know" about the fund collected and being expended or is planned to be expended.
"It also said that the victims of COVID-19 who desperately need the money to fight the deadly virus are not in a position to enforce their fundamental right of being treated and financially supported, by the use of funds collected in the PM-CARES fund. The COVID-19 victims are not able to enforce their fundamental right to get medical treatment," he stated.
Hooda said that the reluctance in divulging information raises a "profoundly serious apprehension" since the fund has been established for a public cause for combating deadly pandemic.
The petitioner asked why is there such secrecy when the website of the fund clearly states that all persons engaged in the management of the fund are working on a pro bono capacity and shall have no personal interest in the fund.
"The creation of the fund was announced by the Prime Minister on March 28, 2020 and the Prime Minister urged all Indians to donate to the fund to help the country fight COVID-19. After two months, the total corpus of the fund stands at approximately Rs 10,000 crores and the amount has been so collected upon strength of prestige lent by the office of the Hon'ble Prime Minister," read the petition.
"The corpus of Rs 10,000 crores has been created by donations largely from the Public Sector Undertakings, Central Ministries and Departments and even the salaries of armed forces personnel, civil servants and members of the judicial entities have been compulsorily donated into the fund. If PM-CARES fund is held not to be a public authority, it needs to be examined as to whether the public authorities at the highest level could prompt the government agencies, public servants, to contribute to this funds whose details are now sought to be kept opaque," it said.
The petitioner stated that "it is well known that sunlight is the best disinfectant and all the undesirable activities are done under the cover of darkness".
"Transparency is the bedrock of rule of law and opaqueness smells of ulterior motives or at least is indicative of feudal mindset and hawkish attitude, which is opposed to being fair, just and reasonable in public dealings," the plea said.