Novel coronavirus has affected most of the countries in the world. It led to infection of over 1.29
crore people and death of over 5.69 lakh people throughout the world. On January 30, 2020,
India confirmed its first coronavirus case. At present, India ranks at 3 with over 8.50 lakh
confirmed cases and 22 thousand deaths.
On March 28, 2020, Prime Minister announced the creation of Prime Minister’s Citizen
Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund), herein after referred to
as the fund
. The primary reason for the creation of the fund was to fights India’s war with
Covid-19 and to make a healthier India in long term. He also urged the people of India in the said
fund and a press release was also issued by Prime Minister’s office.
Several applications under RTI Act, 2005 (herein after referred to as the ‘Act’) were filed for
seeking information relating to PM Cares fund and they were disposed. First appeal filed by few
of the applicants was disposed. In this piece we will discuss how the fund qualifies as
and how the activities of government impose a great doubt on transparency of said
PM Cares Fund
A public charitable trust named PM Cares Fund was established with Prime Minister as the ex-
officio chairman and Minister of Defense, Home affairs and Finance as ex-officio trustees.
Chairman was given the power to nominated three trustees.
The object of providing support or assistance related to public health emergencies, up gradation
or creation of infrastructure related to healthcare, providing grants for research, providing
financial assistance and to take any other steps as considered necessary by trustees of the fund.
Further, it qualified benefits under 80G of Income Tax Act, 1961 i.e, 100% income tax
exemption and it also was also considered as CSR activity under Companies Act, 2013.
Application under RTI and Response
Several persons including the present author had filed RTI application under the Act for seeking
the information pertaining to amount of contributions received, details regarding the
disbursement of received amount, details of highest contributors etc.
In response to the RTI applications, it was replied that fund does not comes under the ambit of
‘public authority’ defined under 2(h) of the Act. It further provided that relevant information
relating to fund was available on ‘pmcares.gov.in’ but the sufficient information is not available.
Being aggrieved by the reply, many persons including the author had preferred first appeal under
the Act which was rejected on same ground. Few PIL’s have been filed in the court for the said
Question of Public Authority
The fund qualifies conditions necessary for being considered as a public authority.
- The government headed by Prime Minister, ex-officio chairman of the fund
has a deep and substantial control over the fund.
- The government has a good legal title over the fund since PM, Minister
of home affairs, defence and finance it looks into all the affairs of the
- The PM has also called for contributions from public wherein Indian
Railways donated Rs. 15 crore and air force, navy and army, defence PSUs and employees of the defence
ministry have collectively donated Rs. 500 crore.
Also, website of fund uses official “.gov.in” domain and uses the State Emblem of India.
Steps of Government in Question
The present government has blocked parliament panel review of the said fund. Also, audit of the
said fund is to be done by a Delhi based firm. The head of the independent auditing company is
said to have close acquaintances with Prime Minister and other leaders of BJP. He serves as
advisor to various government entities. Transparency in the auditing process till remains an
Also, donations to PM Cares fund qualified as CSR activity but donations to CM Cares Fund did
not qualify as CSR activity. It created dissatisfaction among few states and few left parties
vehemently opposed this move of the governement.
Donations were made in said PM Cares Fund on account of association of government of India
and continuous promotion of the said fund by various ministers. If complete details relating to
said fund is not provided, it can’t be considered anything more than a step of converting disaster
into opportunity by a political party.
In a democratic country like India, transparency forms the crux. Right to Information is
fundamental right under 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. Availability of information in public
domain makes government more accountable to public and it also increases the participation of
public in politics.