The Prime Minister's National Relief Fund (PMNRF) is not a 'public authority' within the meaning of Section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act 2005, said the Public Information Officer of the Prime Minister's Office(PMO).
The PMO stated this while disposing of an RTI application filed by one Abhimanyu Shrivastav.
Srivastav had sought information regarding the bylaws/rules governing the PMNRF, all documents relating to the constitution of PMNRF Trust, and the names of current trustees. He had also sought to know whether any person from the opposition has ever been made a trustee of PMNRF.
Without revealing the information sought, the PMO disposed of the application stating :
"Prime Minister's National Relief Fund (PMNRF) is not a public authority under the ambit of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005. However, relevant information in respect of PMNRF may be seen on the website – pmnrf.gov.in"
A single bench of the Delhi High Court had held in 2017 that the PMNRF was amenable to the RTI Act. The single bench verdict came in a writ petition filed by one Aseem Takyar challenging the order passed by the PMO in 2011 to reject his RTI application seeking information about PMNRF. In the appeal filed by the PMNRF against the single bench verdict, the division bench delivered a split verdict on May 23, 2018, in the case Prime Minister's National Relief Fund vs Aseem Takyar.
While Justice Sunil Gaur(now retired) held that PMNRF was not a "public authority" within the definition given under the RTI Act, Justice S Ravindra Bhat(now a SC judge) held that the fund was a "public authority" as defined under the Act.
In view of the divergence in views among the judges of the division bench, the matter was referred to a larger bench. The reference is still pending.
The PMO had earlier refused to divulge information about the PM CARES Fund by holding that it did not qualify as a "public authority" under the RTI Act. This decision of PMO is under challenge before the Delhi High Court.
In August, the Supreme Court had dismissed a PIL seeking transfer of PM CARES Funds to the National Disaster Response Fund(NDRF).
The PMNRF trust was constituted in 1948 in pursuance of an appeal by the then Prime Minister, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru for public contributions to assist displaced persons from Pakistan. Later, the fund was utilized to render immediate relief to families of those killed in natural calamities like floods, cyclones and earthquakes, etc. and to the victims of the major accidents and riots.
Click here to download the PMO's RTI Reply