The Supreme Court on Tuesday observed that "no exception can be taken to the constitution" of PM CARES Funds to meet the emergency situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The top court made this observation while disposing of a PIL filed by Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) seeking to transfer the funds from PM CARES to National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) created under the National Disaster Management Act, 2005.
The Court noted that the guidelines in existence with respect to NDRF and State Disaster Response Fund - which were framed in 2015- 16 - did not cover biological or public health emergencies.
It was only by notification dated March 14 that COVID-19 was treated as notified disaster for the purpose of providing assistance under SDRF.
"Outbreak of COVID-19 in India, as well as other countries of the World, required immediate enhancement in the infrastructure of medical health and creation of fund to contain COVID-19. At this need of the hour, no exception can be taken to the constitution of a public charitable trust, namely, PM CARES Fund to have necessary financial resources to meet the emergent situation", observed the judgment authored by Justice Ashok Bhushan.
The bench, also including Justices R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah, observed, "It is not open for the petitioner to question the wisdom of trustees to create PM CARES fund which was constituted with an objective to extend assistance in the wake of public health emergency that is pandemic COVID-19."
No Occasion For CAG Audit Of PM CARES Fund As It Is A Public Charitable Trust: SC [Read Judgment]
Still open for any individual to contribute to NDRF
The Court rejected the arguments of Dushyant Dave, Senior Advocate who appeared for the petitioner, that contributions to NDRF are now barred.
The argument of the Dave was on the ground that after the framing of the new guidelines for NDRF with effect from financial year 2015-16, it was not possible for anyone to contribute to NDRF.
In this regard, the Court said :
"New guidelines contain the same heading, i.e., "Contribution to the NDRF" and guideline 5.2 provides "Funds will be credited into the NDRF in accordance with the provisions of the Section 46(1)(a) & (b) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005." The above guideline 5.2 specifically referred to Section 46(1)(a) & (b) and Section 46(1)(b) expressly provides that any grants that may be made by any person or institution for the purpose of disaster management shall be credited into the NDRF. The submission that after the new guidelines, it is not possible for any person or institution to make any contribution to the NDRF is, thus, misconceived and incorrect. According to the statutory provisions of Section 46 as well as new guidelines enforced with effect from financial year 2015-16 any person or institution can still make contribution to the NDRF"
The Court also rejected Dave's submission that NDRF guidelines were amended to benefit PM CARES, as those guidelines came into force with effect from 2015-16.
"Any contribution, grant of any individual or institution is not prohibited to be credited into the NDRF and it is still open for any person or institution to make contribution to the NDRF in terms of Section 46(1)(b) of the Act, 2005", the Court said.
The Court also clarified that :