Govt to respond to plea to declare PM CARES Fund as a public authority, SG informs Delhi HC
Submitting that RTI was a fundamental right under Article 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India, the petitioner has sought for a declaration that PM CARES was a public authority under the RTI Act
The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) will file a response before the Delhi High Court in connection with a petition seeking a declaration that PM CARES Fund qualified as a public authority under RTI Act.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed the Delhi High Court on Wednesday that a response would be filed as to why the petition deserved to be dismissed, reports legal news website BarandBench.com.
A single Judge Bench of Justice Navin Chawla accordingly granted six weeks' time to the PMO to file its response to the petition preferred by Samyak Gangwal.
Earlier this year, Petitioner Samyak Gangwal had moved an RTI application seeking the following details:
- A copy of the trust deed of the PM CARES Fund;
- A copy of the document/letter/memo vide which PM CARES Fund was constituted;
-A copy of the entire file including note sheets/letters/communications/office memos/orders etc wherein the decision to constitute PM CARES Fund was taken.
However, on June 2, the Central Public Information Officer, Prime Minister's Office (CPIO) replied to the Petitioner's application stating that PM CARES was not a public authority under the ambit of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005.
Aggrieved by the reply, the petitioner moved the High Court.
Contending that the PM CARES Fund was indeed an public authority under RTI Act, the petitioner has submitted that the Fund was not only established by an order of the government but was also owned and controlled by the government.
“Presently, the PM CARES Fund has an official website registered by the domain name 'pmcares.gov.in' wherein the said Fund is being promoted using the State Emblem of India. The State Emblem of India is also being used by the PM CARES Fund in all its communications and advertisements in print and television media. Thus it is abundantly clear that PM CARES Fund is created by the Government of India and as such is wholly operated by the Government of India,” the petition reads.
The petitioner has also informed that the Prime Minister's Office even released a Press Note urging all to generously donate to the PM CARES Fund in view of COIVD-19.
Subsequently, the donations were expected from tax liabilities and qualified as CSR activity, it is added.
The petitioner has justified the invocation of the court's jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution on the ground that the Chief Information Commissioner has already held that Prime Minister's National Relief Fund, which is similar to the PM CARES Fund, was not a public authority under the RTI Act and a petition assailing that finding was pending before the High Court.
Submitting that Right to Information was a fundamental right under Article 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India, the petitioner has thus sought for a declaration that PM CARES was a public authority under the RTI Act.
Directions are also sought to give a copy of the documents/details sought by the petitioner in the RTI.
The matter would be heard next on August 28.
Meanwhile, a PIL seeking a direction to the PM CARES Fund to divulge information under the Right to Information Act, 2005 was dismissed as withdrawn today. Preferred by Petitioner, Dr SS Hooda, the PIL was listed for hearing before a Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan.
Petitioner Hooda withdrew the petition after the Court pointed out that the Petitioner had moved the Court without filing an RTI himself.