By: Ravneet Kaur
The present article is an attempt to analyze the objective,nature and issues related to different funds i.e. PM CARES AND PM NRF. In the amid of unprecedented situation going on in the country, there was a dire need of the money for government spending. So to overcome this need, the government created the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund(PM CARES). In one-and-a-half months, the fund has raked up in thousands of crores worth of donations through public funding. The question was arised that government already have PMNRF, then why created new fund? Here we are going to see how both these
funds work and how they different from each other.
The PM National Relief Fund was instituted in 1948 to an appeal made by way of a press note by then the PM Jawahar Lal Nehru. The fund was originally made to accept contributions for the assistance of partition refugees,who displaced from Pakistan during time of Independence.
At present, this fund is used to provide immediate relief to the families of those killed in natural calamities such as, earthquake, flood,etc and victims of major accidents and riots. This fund also help to aid medical expenses for acid attack sufferers, cancer patients and other like treatments.
The PM National Relief Fund was originally managed by a committee which includes:
1) The Prime Minister
2) The Deputy Prime Minister
3) The Finance minister
4) The Congress president
5) Representative of Tata trustees, and
6) An industry and commerce representatives to be chosen by FICCI
Thereafter in 1985, certain changes had been made where the management fully came under the control of the PM with the discretion to appoint secretary in government of India to hold it’s management.
The fund has not been constituted by an act of the parliament. It has been considered as a ‘Trust’ and exempted under Section 10 and 139 of the Income tax act,1961. Contributions towards PMNRF are notified for 100% deduction from taxable income under Section 80(g) of Income tax act.
Contributions to PM NRF is qualified as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Expenditure.
Under the Companies Act,2013 companies with a minimum net worth of Rs 500 crore or
turnover of Rs 1000 crore, or net profit of RS 5 crore are required to spend at least 2% of their
average profit for the previous three years on ‘CSR’ activities every year.
Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES fund) has been set up in the need for having a dedicated national fund with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation,like posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The main objective is to undertake and support relief or assistance of any kind relating to a public health emergency, calamity or distress, either man-made or natural, including the creation or upgradation of healtcare or pharmaceutical facilities, funding relevant research or any other type of support.
1) The Prime Minister of India
2) The Minister of Defense
3) The Minister of Home Affairs
4) The Minister of Finance
The PM is the ex-officio chairman of the PM CARES Fund and other ministers are ex-officio trustees of the fund. The chairperson of the fund shall have the power to nominate three trustees to the board of trustees who shall be eminent person in the field of research, health, science, social work,law, public administration,and philanthropy.
The fund has not been constituted by an act of parliament. It has been considered as a ‘Trust’ under Income tax act. Donations to PM CARES is 100% exempted under Section 80(g) of the said act.
Recently, The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has clarified that contributions by the companies towards the PM CARES Fund will count towards mandatory Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Expenditure.
● The fund consists entirely of public contributions and does not get any budgetary support
● Both the funds accept voluntary contributions.
● Disbursements from the fund made with the prior approval of Prime Minister.
● Funds are not subjected to auditing of Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG).
● Funds are recognised as ‘Trust’ under Income Tax Act,1961.
There is a fine line between both of the funds. PM CARES misses on one line i.e, in case of PMNRF, contributions flowing out from the balance sheets of the Public Sector Undertakings(PSU), are not accepted. But PM CARES accepts.
Why new Fund?
At this juncture, it is difficult to understand why the government is come up with the PM CARES Fund, specially when PM National Relief Fund is available. PM CARES has courted as much controversy as it has funds. Since it was established, became subject of at-least two PILs, neither of which get red-carpet treatment in the Apex Court. In the first appeal, The Bench which comprised of CJI S.A Bobde, Justice L. Nargeshwara Rao
and Justice M.M Shantanogoudar. Contentions was made by the petitioner that the fund had to be created in accordance with Article 266(2)&267 which deal with the Contingency and Consolidated Funds of India and had sought a transfer of the donations received so far in the
fund to the Consolidated fund of India,but was dismissed as being MISCONCEIVED’.
The petitioners of the second appeal were fined and asked to withdraw the petition as it owing to ”POLITICAL COLOUR’.
Is these funds under ‘RTI’?
Recently, The PMO’s office denied to disclose information and documents pertaining to PMCARES fund against RTI, and denied that fund is not covered under section 2(h) of Right To Information Act, 2005.
Section 2(h): “Public Authority” means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted,-
A) by or under the Constitution;
B) by any other law made by parliament;
C) by any other law made by State Legislature;
D) by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any-
- a) body owned, controlled or substantially financed;
- b) non-government organization substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government;
- c) “record” includes-
- any document, manuscript and file;
- any microfilm,microfiche and facsimile copy of a document;
- any reproduction of image or images embodied in such microfilm(whether enlarged or not); and;
- any other material produced by a computers or any other device;
If PM CARES is not fall under the definition of “Public authority”, then what about the status of PMNRF?
The primary question is whether PMNRF falls within the meaning of section 2(h) or not?.
The Division Bench in PMNRF V. ASEEM TAKYAR, 2018
The question for consideration in this appeal was whether Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund is a “PUBLIC AUTHORITY” within the ambit of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act 2005.
The learned single judge, hold the view that PMNRF is not a “Public authority”,
- Firstly,He observed that it does not owe its Genesis to the government, but to a Press Note issued by the then PM in his ex-officio capacity.
- Secondly,He opined that the fund is housed in the office of the PM, does not by itself support an interference that it is wholly owned by the government. Further said, the Fund was not constituted by parliament nor by the government.
- Thirdly, He emphasized on the voluntary nature of the donations and non-acceptance of the contributions from budgetary sources of the government or from the Balance Sheets of the Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs).
- Lastly, He briefly sketched an in arguendo stating the relevance of traditional custom of ‘GUPT DAAN’ and stated that custom needs to be appropriated in the light of K.S puttaswamy Judgement, wherein it has been unanimously declared that the Right To Privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the Right To Life and Personal Liberty under Article 21, so, Privacy of donors need to be protected.
Since after this judgement, it was established that PMNRF is not covered under Section 2(h), would be created as precedent for PM CARES fund, as both are same in nature. Recently, PIL has been filed before the Delhi High Court to establish status of PM CARES, whether under the ambit of Section 2(h) of RTI Act or not?. PIL also seeking direction to display all the information related to donations and spendings from the fund to the official website of the government.
The matter is likely to be taken up by the Delhi High Court on June 10, 2020.
It was concluded that both the funds are similar in nature with thin line difference. These funds are considered as ‘Trust’ which are exempted from income tax return, accepts only voluntary donations and doesn’t get any budgetary support, subjected to the Auditing of CAG. The only difference is that, PMNRF does not accepts contributions from balance sheets of PSUs,
however, PM CARES accepts.
Issue was arises when the question was raised that what was the need of PM CARES when PMNRF is already available. PILs were filed related to this issue, which was dismissed by the Apex Court. Further it was announced by Prime Minister’s Office that PM CARES is not covered under the ambit of “Public authority” of RTI Act,2005. As per my perspective, Accountability and Transparency should be the sine qua non of government working. Justice should be done to the Faith of citizens who contributed to the fund and government should be accountable to the funding of public.
Author: Ravneet Kaur, ll.b 1styear, Department of Laws, Panjab University Chandigarh