New Delhi: The Supreme Court said on Tuesday that the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) and PM-CARES are two entirely different funds with different objectives and purposes.
A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah said this while hearing a petition filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL).
Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for the petitioner, submitted that he is not questioning the bona fides of the constitution of the PM-CARES fund, but his submission was that the NDRF is audited by the CAG but the PM-CARES fund is not.
Rather, he contended, the audit is done by a private chartered accountant.
The court replied: “The guidelines issued under the Act of 2005 (Disaster Management Act) with regard to NDRF specifically provides for audit of NDRF by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, whereas for public charitable trust there is no occasion for CAG audit.”
The bench noted that the contributions made by individuals and institutions in the PM-CARES fund are to be released for public purposes to fulfil the objective of the trust.
The PM-CARES fund is a charitable trust registered under the Registration Act, 1908 at New Delhi on March 27.
“The PM-CARES fund is a public charitable trust and is not a government fund. The trust does not receive any budgetary support or any government money. It is not open for the petitioner (CPIL) to question the wisdom of the trustees to create PM-CARES fund, which was constituted with an objective to extend assistance in the wake of public health emergency, that is COVID-19 pandemic,” the court observed.
The bench noted that the Centre is the decision-maker on what financial measures are to be taken on which funds. It was neither for the petitioner to claim that any financial assistance be made from a particular fund, nor for the court to sit in judgment over the financial decisions of the Centre.
The bench observed that the Centre can very well utilise the NDRF money for the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic by releasing funds on the request of states as per the new guidelines.
“Any contribution, grant from any individual or institution is not prohibited to be credited into the NDRF; it is still open for any person or institution to make a contribution to the NDRF in terms of Section 46(1)(b) of the Act of 2005. The contribution by any person, or by any institution, in PM-CARES fund is voluntary and is open for any person, or institution, to make contribution to it,” the Supreme Court added.
Dismissing the petition, the court said that money collected in PM-CARES are funds of a public charitable trust and there is no occasion to issue any direction for its transfer to the NDRF.
“When the central government is providing financial assistance to the states to contain COVID-19, it is not for any PIL petitioner to say that the Centre should give an amount from this fund or that fund,” it added.