KOCHI: Expressing concern over unrestricted crowdfunding by many people for the treatment of children suffering from rare diseases, the High Court on Friday said the state should have some control over the practice.
“Every Tom, Dick and Harry cannot be permitted to raise funds,” it said. “There are different people, including YouTubers, raising funds. They are collecting money for treatment. Where is the money going? Where is it coming from? Who collected it? What is the remaining balance? Does the state have any control or monitoring over this collection of money,” Justice P B Suresh Kumar asked while hearing a petition by an autorickshaw driver seeking government aid for importing a drug costing Rs 18 crore to treat his six-month-old child who is suffering from a rare genetic disease, spinal muscular atrophy.
“When the state government started collecting money to provide free vaccines, it raised only Rs 68 lakh. However, Rs 18 crore was raised within seven days by some people for the drug. What is the magic behind it,” the court wondered. It directed the government to inform it about the provisions to control crowdfunding in the state. The court made it clear that it did not want to interdict crowdfunding, but only caution the government to have some control over it.
“YouTubers can promote the campaign to raise funds. Let the money come to the government platform. Why should they collect money via their bank accounts? Some YouTubers started arguments in public about spending the balance amount,” said the court. It said the government has not evolved any policy on crowdfunding so far.
“People cannot simply be permitted to collect money. There should be some sort of control by the government. People should not be taken for a ride. If any mismanagement or allegations (regarding the funds) come to light, people will not provide any help in future. The transactions, if left unsupervised, can destabilise the economy,” the court observed orally.
‘Not against crowdfunding, only want monitoring’
The government pleader submitted that some media firms, YouTubers and social media activists had started crowdfunding. Hence, the state police chief’s intervention would be required to find out the source of the funds being collected and to know the operators of the accounts. The court said it will suo motu implead the state police chief in the case.
The court asked whether the money was coming solely for treatment or was it going elsewhere too. The government pleader told the court about the “We Care” project initiated by the government to provide financial aid to the needy. The court said if the government has a platform, the money will be collected by it.
An advocate who filed a similar plea seeking government aid said ‘We Care’ was not effective and should be implemented in properly. The advocate said if the court interdicted crowdfunding, it will affect children who are seeking support. The court replied that it was not interdicting crowdfunding, but only asking the government to monitor it.