On the 24th of March, the MHA announced the COVID-19 pandemic in India a fundamental catastrophe[i] and entreated the requirements of the National Disaster Management Act to provide the state administrative power. Since 1948, the Indian Government is using “Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF)[ii] to contribute supplies to the families who are sufferers of natural disasters.
Astonishingly rather of using PMNRF, Prime Minister proclaimed the production of the new Prime Minister Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situation Fund. The PM is the chairman and divisions cover the minister of home affairs, the minister of defence, and the minister of finance. Considering its corporation, the Fund is challenging with numerous issues and one amongst them is whether the Fund comes into the classification of Public Authority beneath the Right to Information Act, 2005. The Government of India has categorically rejected proffering any data endeavoured under the RTI Act.[iii]
The Prime Minister’s Office had deliberately neglected the Parliament’s resolution to respond to RTI applications and committed against the vitality of the “Rules and Office Memoranda” declared by the “Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT).[iv] The Fund is certainly lacking clearness from the society as the PMO declined to present data on the thousands of crores of public funds in government-controlled PM CARES funds statement.
PM Cares A “Public Authority”
In the RTI registered in PMO had stated that one should not be considered as a civil right and it shouldn’t be considered to disclose any data queried by the appellant.
The expression Public Authority” under section 2(h)(d) of the RTI act is defined as “the essence declared, established or extensively funded or a non- government organization considerably financed immediately or obliquely by the funds granted by the relevant authority.
In Central Information Commission versus National Stock Exchange of India Ltd, [v] Delhi High Court has stated that if the three perquisites are own or highly financed are settled then there is no obligation to monitor the other requirements specified in subsection (a) to (c).
These circumstances are discrete and are non-cumulative. Performing completely through this description, it can be concluded that the creation of the Fund on 28th March by the state and its authority beyond the administration delivers it a public authority under section 2(h)(d) of the Act.
Furthermore, the official website of the Fund accepts the Indian National Flag, State Emblem of India and the illustrated description of the Prime Minister of India which unless directed by the central government, is against Section 3 of the “The Emblem and Names Act,1950”[vi] and “The State Emblem of India Act, 2005.” The description thus constitutes a hypothesis that it is commissioned by the administration.
Moreover, the Fund is cross-linked with the website of “Prime Minister of India” and is considered as PM’s Funds. Also, it includes. gov.in as its site which could solely be designated once it is considered acceptable by the National Informatics Centre under Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology Regulations[vii].
The apex bench further, in the matter of In Corporation of the City of Nagpur & Ors v. Ramchandra S/O Guru Nath Modak & Ors had commented that the expression ‘control’ is of rather a wide essence and amplitude and carries a comprehensive assortment of powers which are subsidiary or considerable to execute the laws vested in the administration involved. All these situations Implied at the management should hold adequate amplitude of the control throughout the capital and therefore it should be referred to as the official authority beneath section 2(h) of the RTI act.
A requirement for the Comptroller & Auditor General for the auditing of the funds
The Comptroller and Auditor agency had affirmed that the Fund would not be estimated by the “CAG“[viii]. Rather, it would be interpreted by the “autonomous advisers” decided by the “trustees”. The PM and ex-officio who are the Defence Minister, Home Minister and Finance Minister set the guardians and possess the interests for the utilization of the fund which delivers it a sole advantage of the administration.
There is a requirement for the CAG to review the fund because the fund receives contributions not solely from private companies and society corporate but besides from “Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme fund”[ix] and “Member of Legislative Assembly Local Area Development Scheme fund” which determines the portion of the “consolidated capital” of centre and state respectively. Moreover, beneath “Article 149 of the Indian Constitution”, the CAG is commanded to examine the Consolidating Fund of India.
Furthermore, in the matter of the “Association of Unified Tele Services Providers and others v. Union of India”[x] court granted with Harish Salve’s thought that the expression “reports of Union and States and any additional authority or society” specified under Article 149 claims a “composite analysis” and the phrase “body” should be examined in honour of the phrase “states”, union, and “authority” all of which indicates some manner of “state administration” and “the title only intended to include the items that deliver State functions/or substances funded or regulated by the State.” Accordingly, in the contemporary situation, the PM CARES fund is regulated by the state which expects it to be evaluated by the CAG.
Moreover, under the Article 266(2) of the Indian Constitution, all the public money collected by or on the part of Government of India which do not determine the part of either the results from the “loans, “duties,” and “taxes,” would be “attributed to the public account of India.” Moreover, under “Section 13(b) of the CAG Act”, the CAG is entitled to examine “all activities of the Union and State reported to public record.” Hence, there is a requirement for a legislative omission over the Fund and a requirement for the CAG to review the Fund.
Falls beneath the RTI Act
The PMO has stated that there is no declaration of the fund under the public authority according to Section 2 clause (H) act and the funds fall outside the realm of the state. The dilemma that happens is that throughout the Fund is created for the well-being of the public, does the declaration of the essential data appear in any public harm which addresses it an objection specified under Section 8 of the “RTI Act”.
In “Reliance Petrochemicals Ltd v. Proprietors of Indian Express”[xi], the judges had declared that the liberty to know is the fundamental right under Article 21. Further as declared by the Secretary Ministry of Information and, Govt. of India and Ors. v. Cricket Association of Bengal and Ors[xii], the bench considered that the freedom to obtain and propagate data surfaces beneath Article 19 (1)(a).
The “Public Interest” analyses specified under Section 8 of the RTI Act, restrain the right to obtain data. Following this analysis, the public authority is compelled to determine that exposure may resemble to be creating impairment to the public to confirm the withdrawal.
Based on the above-mentioned proposition, it is relevant to state that where an administrator eventually determines to rely on an exception to refuse clearness, the RTI Act expects the equivalent to being succeeded with the proper incentives to the appellant. These analyses should also demonstrate how the public enthusiasm override was perceived and executed, which was in the contemporary case regrettably not granted.
Responsibility provides the existence of higher security. While “PMNRF” has remained in service since 1948, the absence of a steady plan and rationale for the endowment of the Fund suggests difficulties on the recently built body. The fund’s public standing claims that the government must reveal the trust document and other relevant data beneath the RTI Act. This clearness would impress the public perception of arrogance and quiet attention to a lack of answerability.
[i] Guj HC | “If State would not have been doing anything, we all would have been dead”: Court berates politicising of COVID-19 situation while at the same time reminding the State of its Constitutional obligations, Published on 1st June 2020, SCCOnline By Devica.
[ii] See more on https://pmnrf.gov.in/en/
[iii] See more on https://rti.gov.in/rti-act.pdf
[iv]See more on https://thewire.in/rights/pm-cares-pmo-rti-act-office-memoranda
[v] See more on https://indiankanoon.org/doc/38400934/
[vi]See more on http://legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/A1950-12_0.pdf
[vii]See more on https://registry.gov.in/Gov.In%20Guidelines.pdf
[xi]See more on https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1351834/#:~:text=A%20petition%20was%20moved%20before,Indian%20Express%20Newspapers%20Bombay%20Pvt.&text=The%20petition%20was%20moved%20on%20behalf%20of%20Reliance%20Petrochemicals%20Ltd.
[xii] See more on https://main.sci.gov.in/judgment/judis/10896.pdf