HC rejects PM CARES Fund plea for inclusion of Opp members in Fund

Nagpur HC

Nagpur : Finally the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court on Thursday rejected the PIL of one Arvind Waghmare, demanding appointment of three trustees, including two from opposition parties as per the scheme to manage PM CARES Fund.The Nagpur-based lawyer, Waghmare filed the PIL again even after the top court of the country refused to entertain a plea seeking quashing of the decision to set up the PM CARES Fund, where people can donate money, to deal with the situation arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic, a few days ago.

The Nagpur PIL was later modified by Waghmare in the wake of Supreme Court verdict, adding that at least two opposition leaders be included in the trust. A division bench of the Bombay high court on Thursday also turned down a request made by petitioner to remove private auditing firm M/s SAARC Associates since public money is involved and also declaration of utilisation of money deposited in the fund. The bench of the high court, consisting of Justice Sunil Shukre and Justice Anil Kilor while pronouncing its verdict dismissed the petition on all the three counts and found no merit in any of the prayers made by Waghmare expressing reservation about existing mechanism.

While appearing before the court in person, Waghmare had sought proper audit of PM CARE’s fund, appointment of three trustees as per the scheme of fund since this is a public money. He also demanded declaration of money collected so far and its utilization. The PM Cares Fund was formed on March 28 this year in the wake of Coronavirus pandemic and the petitioner lawyer also claimed to have contributed to it. “This is not a personal fund of any political party,” he claimed while seeking appointment of leaders belonging to opposition parties to make the working of the fund more transparent and inclusive.

However, the Additional Solicitor General of India, Anil Singh had sought dismissal of the PIL filed by Waghmare and stated that the Apex Court had already rejected the petition last week with detailed reasons and most of the issues agitated in this PIL have been one way or the other covered by the Apex Court ruling. While strongly opposing the petition and dubbing it as politically motivated, the government pleader also doubted the intentions of the petition.

The PM CARES trust, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as its chairperson and ministers from departments of Defence, Home and Finance as its members, was created with the prime objective of dealing with the emergency or distress caused by the coronavirus.

The trust was created in order to have financial assistance from people in the country and also from overseas to provide relief and assistance to those affected by COVID-19 pandemic, it said. 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, from the formation of the trust on March 28, 2020 till date no appointment has been made, the petition claimed.