The Supreme Court's verdict on Tuesday, refusing to order the transfer of PM-CARES funds for Covid relief to the National Disaster Response Fund "will be contested for a long time in academic circles", veteran Congress leader P Chidambaram said, putting out what he termed "vital questions" on the transparency, disclosure and management practices of the PM-CARES funds.
"Supreme Court has delivered a judgement on the legality and legal accountability of PM-CARES FUND. The judgement is final but will be contested for a long time in academic circles," Mr Chidambaram said in a series on tweets.
The Supreme Court had rejected a petition that said the government should be directed to transfer contributions made to PM-CARES for Covid to the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF). The court said funds collected by the PM-CARES fund are those of charitable trusts and "entirely different".
Supreme Court has delivered a judgement on the legality and legal accountability of PM-CARES FUND. The judgement is final but will be contested for a long time in academic circles.— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) August 19, 2020
The Congress expressed disappointment over the verdict, calling it a "body blow to transparency and accountability" of the government to the people.
"There are other aspects of PM-CARES FUND on which the Supreme Court had no occasion to pronounce judgement. These are transparency, disclosure and management practices concerning the Fund," Mr Chidambaram tweeted.
The former Finance Minister sought details of the donors who contributed to the fund in the first five days in March and questioned if they included "Chinese firms". "What is the amount received since April 1, 2020 and who are the donors?" he said.
Who are the donors who gave Rs 3076 crore in— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) August 19, 2020
the first five days in March 2020? Do they include Chinese firms?
What is the amount received since April 1, 2020 and who are the donors?
Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund was set up by the centre on March 28 to deal with any kind of emergency situation like the one currently posed by the pandemic 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 ex-officio trustees.
"If the Fund is beyond the ambit of RTI, who will answer these vital questions?" Mr Chidambaram tweeted.
The ruling BJP welcome the top court's verdict and hit out at the Congress, especially Rahul Gandhi, saying he had "tried to pull down" the government in its fight against coronavirus since Day 1.
"Transparency is writ large in PM-CARES Fund both in terms of legal requirement and transparent management of funds received on a voluntary basis... Unnecessary targeting of the PM-CARES fund has been done in the high court and in the Supreme Court," Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said.