Creation of funds like the PM Cares Fund is not barred by the existence of other statutory funds like the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) under the Disaster Management Act of 2005, the Central government told the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
In its affidavit filed before the top court, the Centre defended the PM Cares Fund stating that it is a fund established to carry out relief work and there are several such funds that have been established on similar lines in the past.
“Mere existence of a statutory fund (NDRF) would not prohibit creation of a different fund like PM Cares Fund which provides for voluntary donations,” the affidavit said.
The Centre’s response came on a petition by NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) seeking transfer of all contributions made to PM Cares Fund till date to the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF).
The NDRF is a fund created by the Central government under Section 46 of the Disaster Management Act for dealing with disasters.
The PM Cares Fund, the petition claimed, has been set up in violation of the legal mandate under the Disaster Management Act as per which any grant made by any person or institution for the purpose of disaster management should be compulsorily credited to NDRF.
The PM Cares Fund was set up by the Central government on March 28 as a public charitable trust with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation such as that posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The petitioner pointed out that two weeks before setting up the PM Cares Fund, the Central government had, on March 14, communicated to all states that Covid-19 would be treated as a notified disaster for the purpose of providing assistance under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF), a fund similar to NDRF and setup under the Disaster Management Act at the state level.
The petitioner said that apart from SDRF, the Central Government should have included NDRF too, for the purpose of providing assistance in the fight against Covid-19 which was decided to be treated as a notified disaster. However, the same was not done so that the central government could later create the PM-CARES Fund.
The Supreme Court had sought the Centre’s response to the plea in June.
The Centre, in its affidavit, also gave details about steps taken by it to alleviate grievances of the poor and migrant workers.
As on the July 7, around 42 crore people received financial assistance of Rs. 67,478 crore under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan package, the affidavit stated. Further, 37.07 Lakh Metric Tonnes (LMT) of food grains were distributed covering 74 crore beneficiaries in April. The number was 36.87 LMT in May and 31.18 in June. Similarly, under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat package, 8 LMT food grains were allocated for stranded migrants for two months, the affidavit highlighted.
The Indian Railways operated 4,611 special Shramik trains from May 1 to July 6 bringing back 63 lakh migrants from various cities to states including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh.
“Mere criticism of a few may not be enough to undermine the humongous and unprecedented response given by our nation which includes, Central government and all state governments, local bodies, health care workers, sanitation workers and each individual citizen who are all corona warriors,” the affidavit said.