NEW DELHI: A plea has filed in the Supreme Court seeking to make Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund) a party in the pending case on COVID-19 management.
An intervention application filed by activist Saket Gokhale in the suo motu case on distribution of essential supplies and services during pandemic said that PM CARES FUND be asked to clarify about the current status of the fund, its links with the Centre, details of funds allocated and progress made towards COVID-19 relief and the status of the projects sanctioned.
On March 28, last year, the Centre had set up the PM CARES Fund with the primary objective to deal with any kind of emergency situation like the one currently posed by the COVID-19 outbreak and provide relief to those affected.
"The Applicant contends that the PM CARES Fund is a non-governmental stakeholder that has been closely involved in decisions and projects that have been closely related to the distribution and supplies of essentials in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic albeit through the Government of India", the application said.
"For that particular reason, the applicant contends that the PM CARES Fund must be made a respondent in the present case and asked to submit details pertaining to its COVID-19 relief related projects and their present status," it said.
Gokhale said that under the present circumstances, it is important that PM CARES Fund make available all information to this Court on the various allocations it has made towards fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has monitored the progress of projects to which monetary allocations were made.
"The PM CARES Fund has also claimed in various different ways that it is neither related to the Government of India and nor is it controlled by it," the plea said, adding that the PM CARES Fund is not only administered by the Prime Minister and other Ministers but has also presented itself as a Government of India entity.
The plea said that the only information available in the public domain about allocations from PM CARES Fund comes from statements and press releases issued by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and it is unclear whether, in addition to the allocations declared publicly, there have been other allocations made towards other COVID-19 related expenditure.
"On the issue of vaccines, the Union of India has submitted to this Court in the present case that no money was allocated or spent by the Government of India towards Covid-19 vaccine development, and hence, the government has no control over deciding the pricing of the vaccines.
"However, PM CARES Fund itself has declared an allocation of Rs. 100 crores towards vaccine development and it is unclear whether any additional funds were allocated for the same purpose for which information was not made available in the public domain," the plea said.
Gokhale further said that PM CARES Fund has not declared its accounts and has rejected RTI enquiries into the same on the grounds that it is not a public authority.
The plea said that since its inception, the PM CARES Fund has collected monetary contributions from India as well as overseas which includes salary contributions by employees and members of several Government of India Ministries and PSUs.
"The PM CARES Fund is managed on a day-to-day basis by the Under Secretary (Funds) in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO)", it said, adding that on May 13, last year, the PM CARES Fund announced that it had allocated Rs. 3000 crores for COVID-19 of which Rs 2000 crore will be earmarked for the purchase of ventilators, Rs 1000 crores will be used for care of migrant labourers and Rs 100 crores will be given to support vaccine development.