Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund) is not a public authority under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act), held the Appellate Authority of the Prime Minister's Office(PMO).
Holding thus, the Deputy Secretary of the PMO upheld the refusal of the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) to disclose information sought by social activist Saket Gokhale relating to PM CARES Fund, LiveLaw.in has reported.
In the application filed on March 29, Gokhale had sought copy of the trust deed and trustees of the Fund, and also the exemption certificates granted to it under Section 12A and 80G of the Income Tax Act.
On June 5, the CPIO disposed off the application stating that the Fund was not a 'public authority' under the Act, and that the relevant information about the same was available in the official website.
Challenging this, Gokhale filed statutory appeal under the RTI Act, pointing out that the Prime Minister was the ex-officio chairman of the Funds and that as per the website, the Under Secretary (Funds) in the PMO is the honorary custodian of the matters related to the FUND.
He further stated that the several public sector utilities like Indian Railways have contributed to the PM CARES Fund. Therefore, it became a public authority under Section 2(h) of the Act, as per which an entity substantially financed directly or indirectly by the government is a public authority, he argued.
He also highlighted that Schedule VII of the Companies Act, 2013 was amended on May 29 to allow donations to PM CARES eligible to be counted as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) contributions.
Without specifically addressing the arguments raised by Gokhale in the appeal, the Appellate Authority stated in the order passed on June 29:"Since PM CARES Fund is not a public authority under the ambit of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005, no further information could be shared with you".
It was also reiterated that the relevant information was available in the website.
Gokhale was also told by the Authority that he could move the Central Information Commission within 90 days, if not satisfied with the response.