BJP raps Cong as Opp party says ‘SC judgment is a body blow to transparency & accountability’
The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected plea that sought the money collected under the PM CARES Fund for the Covid-19 pandemic should be transferred to the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF).
The decision has triggered a massive uproar with the BJP hitting at the Congress which said the judgment is a “body blow to transparency and accountability” of the Government to the people
The court said the fund has been constituted with an objective to extend assistance in the wake of public health emergency and no exception can be taken at this need of the hour in its constitution.
A Bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan said it is for the Central Government to take the decision as from which fund what financial measures are to be taken, and it is neither for PIL petitioner to claim that any financial assistance be made from particular fund nor this court to sit in judgment over the financial decisions.
The observations came on a PIL, filed by NGO “Centre for Public Interest Litigation”, seeking a direction that all the money collected under the PM CARES Fund for the Covid-19 pandemic should be transferred to the NDRF.
“The Chairperson of the Board of Trustees (Prime Minister) shall have the power to nominate three trustees to the Board of Trustees who shall be eminent persons in the field of research, health, science, social work, law, public administration and philanthropy… Any person appointed a Trustee shall act in a pro bono capacity,” the Centre had submitted.
Taking note of the submissions, the apex court said the PM CARES Fund is a public charitable trust and is not a Government fund.
The Bench said it consists entirely of voluntary contributions from individuals/organisations and does not get any budgetary support.
“The mere fact that administration of the Trust is vested in trustees, i.e., a group of people, will not itself take away its public character,” the apex court said.
It noted that the contributions made by individuals and institutions in the PM CARES Fund are to be released for public purpose 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, 2020. The trust does not receive any Budgetary support or any Government money.
“It is not open for the petitioner to question the wisdom of trustees to create PM CARES Fund which was constituted with an objective to extend assistance in the wake of public health emergency that is pandemic Covid-19,” the Bench also comprising justices RS Reddy and MR Shah, said.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for the NGO, had argued that he was not questioning the bona fide of constitution of PM CARES Fund. He had submitted that PM CARES Fund should not have been constituted when NDRF is already in place to take care of disasters.
Dave also said NDRF is audited by CAG but PM CARES Fund is not audited by CAG rather by a private Chartered Accountant.
The apex court, however, said the nature of NDRF and PM CARES Fund is entirely different.
The guidelines issued under Disaster Management Act, 2005 with regard to NDRF specifically provides for audit of the NDRF by the Comptroller & Auditor General of India whereas for public charitable trust there is no occasion for audit by the Comptroller & Auditor General of India.
Soon after the court dismissed a plea for transferring PM CARES Fund to NDRF, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and BJP president JP Nadda on Tuesday hit out at the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and his party for “doubting & questioning every step” taken by the Modi-Government to fight coronavirus and thus “weakening” the “national resolve” against the ongoing pandemic in the country.
Nadda claimed that Supreme Court verdict has “foiled the nefarious designs” of Rahul and his party which doubted aims of PM CARES Fund and wondered, in his tweets, whether they would continue to be “deceitful” in their political pursuits.
The BJP president said doubts about PM CARES Fund were raised by the Congress to “wash its own sins” of the past when money from was transferred from NDRF to Gandhi family owned – Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF).
Prasad who held a Press conference here said so far Rs 3100 crore have been spent from PM Care Fund to battle-out coronavirus in the country of which Rs 2000 crore were meant for the purchase of 50,000 ventilators. Besides, he said Rs 1000 crore were give to the states from PM CARES Fund to help out migrant labourers and Rs 100 allocated for investigations to acquire coronavirus vaccine.
Prasad said the functioning of PM CARES Fund, a public registered body with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at its head, was transparent unlike that in the Congress regime when money was illegally transferred from NDRF to RGF, he alleged.
He said RGF was being run like a family trust and funds meant for the country were diverted there.
“Transparency is writ large in PM CARES Fund both in terms of legal requirement and transparent management of funds received on a voluntary basis. Our Government has not faced even a single accusation of corruption,” said Prasad.
He said Rahul, from day 1, had used coronavirus to create disunity in the nation. “Rahul never spared any opportunity to weaken the national resolve in the fight against Covid-19,” the Minister said.
At the same time, the Congress said the Court’s judgement is a “body blow to transparency and accountability” of the Government to the people.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the Apex Court let go an opportunity to bring in transparency in the fund which has “its own opaque and murky rules” and, thereby, deviated from the belief that “sunlight is the best disinfectant”.
Reacting to the verdict, Surjewala said, “The SC judgment is a body blow to transparency & accountability of Govt to people. It marks a sad letter day for responsibility & answerability of rulers to the electorate and remind them that they are not ‘Monarchs’ but ‘servants of the people’.”
“SC scrupulously believed that ‘sunlight is the best disinfectant’. Today, the Court, in a departure from that tradition, passed up an opportunity to demand answers on the #PMCaresFund that seeks public money but plays by its own opaque & murky rules,” he said in another tweet.
Wednesday, 19 August 2020 | PNS | New Delhi