A petition hasbeen filed in the Supreme Court seeking to transfer all contributions to the PM CARES Fund set up for COVID-19 relief to the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF).
The plea filed by Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) also seeks the constitution of a National Plan under the Disaster Management Act (DM Act).
The plea states that according to Section 46(1)(b)of the DM Act, all present and future collections, contributions, and grants for the fight against COVID-19 should be credited towards the NDRF.
In addition to the above a minimum standard for relief that is to be provided for COVID-19 patients must also be laid down by the government in conformity with Section 12 of the DM Act.
It is highlighted in the case of PM cares fund that India has assumed fourth position in terms of the most reported cases of COVID-19 in the world.
The plea of PM Cares Fund sated that in the face of an unprecedented crisis, passing ad hoc and emergent orders was understandable. But after over two months since the lockdown was imposed, there is a need for a robust National Plan, it was contended.
This National Plan needs to be formulated after having due consultation with the states and must focus towards detailed coordination between the Centre and the states at a time when the country is gradually opening up from a lockdown while also tackling the issue of consistently rising COVID-19 cases.
“The latest National Plan uploaded on the website of National Disaster Management Authority is of the year 2019 and the same doesn’t comprehensively deal with situations arising out of the current pandemic and has no mention of measures like lockdown, containment zones, social distancing etc. in it.”
CPIL avers that prominent Indian epidemiologists and experts in the field of public health have criticised the handling of this pandemic by the Indian government while also giving significant recommendations to deal with the crisis. In light of the same, an expert body must be consulted to draft a National Plan.
“The National Plan should provide inter alia proper and detailed mechanism for any future lockdown measures, detailed coordination mechanism between Centre and States, social distancing norms keeping in mind the predicaments of the lower strata of the society, least disruption of public transports and essential activities, large scale ramping up of quarantine facilities along with rapid manufacturing of testing and PPE kits and all this needs to be done transparently.”
Various aspects of the standard of relief provided in shelter homes and other related aspects of relief work also need to be deliberated upon in formulation of the National Plan, adds the petitioner.
The pea further points out that notutilizingNDRF and creation of a separate fund, the PM CARES fund, which is outside the ambit of the DM Actis in direct violation of the statutory provisions under the DM Act.
The plea states,
“It is pertinent to mention herein that Section 72 of the DM Act provides that the provisions of the DM Act, shall have effect, notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in any other law for the time being in force or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any law other than the DM Act.”
The petitioner also raises the issue of opaqueness regarding the PM CARES Fund, pointing out that it was not subject to a mandatory CAG audit and has been said to be outside the purview of the Right to Information Act.
Therefore, it is important that the contributions towards the fight against COVID-19 are made towards the NDRF and the funds already collected under the PM CARES Fund be transferred to NDRF.
“While the acute and unforeseen challenge in the face of the current COVID-19 pandemic is understandable, the statutory provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 (the parent statute
The petition is filed through Advocate Prashant Bhushan.
Read the PIL here: