Congress leader Rahul Gandhi today took a swipe at the Centre over the "transparency" in PM Cares Fund which was set up following the COVID-19 pandemic in India.
"PM Cares-Chaliye, transparency ko vanakkam!"," Mr Gandhi tweeted, sharing a screenshot of a news headline which seemed to suggest that the government is "not clear whether the fund is a private or government trust".
On Wednesday, NDTV had also reported about the clause in the trust documents in the Fund that called it a private entity, and thus exempting it from RTI scrutiny.
The PM-CARES trust 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".
But while the PM-CARES trust has been registered with the revenue department of Delhi, with the Prime Minister as chairperson and senior ministers as trustees, the trust deed does not define it as a government trust.
Point 5.3 of the Trust Deed says: "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."
The trust was registered on March 27. The very next day, on March 28, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs issued an office memorandum qualifying PM-CARES as a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative to receive corporate donations.
But the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, while issuing the March 28 Office Memorandum, is learnt to have defined PM-CARES as a "fund set up by the central government", according to an RTI accessed by activist Anjali Bhardwaj.
However, the trust deed from the previous day said the Fund was government-run and so could not be eligible for corporate donations.
The contradiction continued until almost two months later, and 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.
Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram had in a series of tweets raised question on the transparency of the Fund.
"If the Fund is a private established fund, why are donations to the fund counted against CSR?" he had tweeted on August 20.
NDTV had filed an RTI application with the Prime Minister's Office asking for the same trust deed, but the request was rejected on the ground that the fund is not a public entity.