The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to order transfer of money from the PM Cares Fund to the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF), saying both are entirely different kinds of donations.
A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan held that PM Cares Fund are about voluntarily donations to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and the budgetary allocations are in the form of a public trust.
On the other hand, NDRF is a statutorily created fund, which has nothing to do with the PM Cares Fund, noted the court.
It added that people are free to make donations in either of the two, and that the government, in its discretion, can also transfer money from PM Cares to NDRF.
Deciding a plea regarding the PM Cares and other aspects relating to the pandemic, the court also gave a thumbs up to the government for having its 2019 National Plan in place.
The bench held there is no need for a new plan in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and that the plan in place can take care of all the exigencies.
It further said the standards of minimum care laid down under the 2019 National Plan are sufficient to take care of the latest public health emergency.
The Supreme Court order is a big relief for the central government, which was repeatedly questioned by the Opposition over the manner in which PM Cares was set up and lack of transparency in its spendings.
On March 28, Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund was established with the primary objective to deal with any kind of emergency situation like the one currently posed by the Covid-19 outbreak and provide relief to those affected.
The Prime Minister is the ex-officio chairman of the fund and the defence, home and finance ministers are its ex-officio trustees.
The plea by NGO CPIL had claimed the PM Cares Fund is allegedly in contravention of provisions of the Disaster Management Act.
An audit of the NDRF is being conducted by the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) but the government has said the audit of the PM CARES Fund will be done by private auditors, the petition had cited.
It was also pointed out that all CSR contribution benefits are given to the PM Cares Fund and they are denied to the state disaster relief funds.