The Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed the Union of India to file a reply to a petition filed by a lawyer seeking an audit by the Comptroller & Auditor General of India and public declaration of funds received by the Prime Minister's Citizens Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund), a public charitable trust created by the central government for dealing with contingencies due to the outbreak of COVID-19, legal news website LiveLaw.in reported.
Justice Madhav Jamdar of the Nagpur bench heard the petition filed by advocate Arvind Waghmare and directed the Union of India to file an affidavit in response to the plea.
PM Cares Fund was formed on March 28 and the petitioner lawyer also claimed to have contributed to it. However, he contended that although Rs.6500 crore is reported to have been collected in the first week, subsequent data regarding funds collected so far has not been made available.
According to the petition, the PM CARES trust is chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself and ministers from the departments of defence, home and finance are members of this trust. It was created with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distressed situation posed by the coronavirus outbreak.
Furthermore, the petitioner has alleged that as per the guidelines of the PM CARES Fund, apart from the chairperson and three other trustees, the chairperson had to appoint or nominate three more trustees. However, since the formation of the trust on March 28, 2020 till date no appointment has been made, it was submitted.
Directions have also been sought to the government and the trust to appoint or nominate at least two members from opposition parties in the lower house as well as the upper house in order to "have a proper check and transparency."
Moreover, directions have been sought to allow CAG to audit the PM Cares Fund instead of an independent auditor selected by the aforesaid trustees of the fund, which is what the government had said.
The petition states, "In order to fortify and strengthen the general public's faith and confidence, it is necessary to issue a direction to the government to declare the funds collected by PM CARES trust till date and how the same have been used for the benefits of citizens affected by coronavirus"
The next date of hearing is May 15.