The Bombay High Court has sought a response from the Centre on a lawyer’s petition seeking an audit by the Comptroller & Auditor General of India and public declaration of funds received by the PM Cares Fund. The Prime Ministers Citizens Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations(PM CARES Fund) is a public charitable fund which is is chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself.
A petition regarding the fund was filed by Advocate Arvind Waghmare which stated that the PM Care Fund was formed on March 28 and Rs 6500 crore was collected in the first week. The data regarding the fund raised so far has not been made available.
A division bench of Justice Sunil B Shukre and Justice Anil S Kilor of the Nagpur bench after hearing the petition has directed the Centre to file an affidavit in reply to the petition and clarify its stand on the issues raised in the plea. The Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court told that the petition, filed by advocate Arvind Waghmare, should be dismissed.
A similar petition against setting up of the PM CARES fund was dismissed by the Supreme Court in April. Moreover, two separate petitions in April challenging the validity of the PM Cares Fund was dismissed by the Supreme Court.
Waghmare in his petition sought a direction to the government to declare funds received and expenditure of the same on the government’s website periodically.
Furthermore, the petition claimed that as per the guidelines of the PM CARES Fund, apart from the chairperson and three other trustees, the chairperson had to appoint or nominate three more trustees. However, from the formation of the trust on March 28, 2020, till date, no appointment has been made.
The petition read: “In order to fortify and strengthen general public’s faith and confidence, it is necessary to issue a direction to the government to declare the funds collected by PM CARES trust till date, and how the same have been used for the benefits of citizens affected by coronavirus”.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has clarified that the PM-CARES Fund, which has so far raised a huge sum of donations to handle the challenges arising from the coronavirus crisis, is not a public authority. This, even though the PM is the ex-officio chairman of the trust, and three cabinet ministers are its trustees.