- After claiming PM-CARES is private, government says it's public entity
- It doesn't come under RTI as it receives private funds: Centre
- PM-CARES was set up to deal with emergency or distress situations
The PM-CARES fund set up for Covid donations is "established by the government" and therefore a public entity, the centre has said in a new RTI reply that appears to contradict its own recent claim on its website that the fund is private.
In the reply, the government says PM-CARES is a body "owned by, controlled by and established by the government of India" but does not come under the RTI or Right to Information law as it receives private funds.
"This fund is completely financed by donations received from individuals/organisations/CSRs (Corporates)/foreign individuals/foreign organisations/PSUs and not at all financed by the appropriate government and administered by private individuals as trustees, which is a compulsory condition to invoke section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act, therefore, PM CARES fund cannot be considered a public authority," the RTI reply of December 24 says.
But a trust deed under which the fund was established on March 27 said it was not owned or controlled by the government.
The document has deepened confusion over PM-CARES after a contradiction emerged in official documents. It now appears that while the fund has been designated as a government entity that receives crores from various donors, it is not bound to disclose them as required for such organisations.
The PM-CARES trust has been registered with the revenue department of Delhi, with the Prime Minister as chairperson and senior ministers as trustees. But the trust deed made public recently on the fund's website did not define it as a government trust.
PM-CARES or the Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund was set up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March to "deal with emergency or distress situations like the coronavirus pandemic".
The Trust Deed said: "The trust is neither intended to be or is in fact owned, controlled or substantially financed by any government or any instrumentality of the government. There is no control of either the central government or any state governments, either direct or indirect, in the functioning of the trust in any manner whatsoever."
A day after it was registered, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs issued an office memorandum qualifying PM-CARES as a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative to receive corporate donations, which made it a government entity.
But the trust deed from a day before (March 27) said it was not government-run, so PM-CARES could not have been eligible for corporate donations.
The contradiction continued until almost two months later, on May 26, the Corporate Affairs Ministry added PM-CARES Fund to the Companies Act retrospectively from March 28.
For two months, PM-CARES was a private entity receiving corporate donations.