- Apprentice Lawyer
- Legal Jobs
As the country continues to reel under the effects of the novel Coronavirus, a plea has been filed in the Supreme Court raising questions about the PM Cares Fund and various Chief Minister Relief Funds, and how they may be in conflict with National and State Disaster Relief Funds.
The plea also seeks a direction to conduct mass COVID-19 tests across the country.
In their plea, Advocates Shaswat Anand, Ankur Azad and Faiz Ahmed, and law student Sagar have stated that only testing suspected cases of COVID-19 will not help in containing the spread of the deadly Coronavirus. The petition reads,
"Due to exponential community spread of the most contagious and deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) cannot be put in check only by test of suspected COVID-19 infected persons, unless mass COVID-19 tests are carried out of public generally to trace people infected by COVID-19, to isolate and treat them."
The petitioners also urge the Court to direct the Government of India to ensure "mass house-to-house tests at the COVID-19 hotspots most severely affected so as to avoid the spread of COVID-19 from the limits of such places into the public at large."
This direction has been sought on the basis of the petitioners' claim that the current approach of testing people for COVID-19 is "inadequate and insufficient."
The plea also questions the need to create a dedicated PM Cares Fund and several State CM Relief Funds, when the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF) and the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) were formed in 2005 after the National Disaster Management Act was brought into force.
The petitioners contend that these Coronavirus-dedicated trusts cannot be allowed to defeat the statutory schemes designed under the 2005 Act, to provide for the effective management of disasters and for matters connected therewith. They state,
"The creation of separate public charitable trusts by the Central/State Government(s) only tends to maim, weaken and paralyze the 2005 Act and the trusts/funds thereunder, being the NDRF and the SDRF. The creation of non-statutory public charitable trust/fund by Prime Minister and Chief Minsters, being PM-Cares Funds and various CM-Relief Funds and promoting the same, who are also concerned with promoting the statutory funds/trusts being theNDRF/SDRF, is arbitrary, inappropriate, uncalled for, unjustified and impermissible under the public policy and within the scheme of the 2005 Act and in the interests of the public at large, keeping in view the clash of interests among such funds/trusts."
The petitioners have thus urged the Court to direct the government to consider the funds created by the Central government under public trusts (PMNRF and PM-Cares Fund) and by state governments (CM-Relief Funds) "as funds collected towards NDRF/SDRF constituted by the Central and State Governments under the 2005 Act."
It is also prayed that such funds be transferred/credited to the NDRF/SDRF respectively.
The plea has drawn a the following questions of law to ponder upon:
Whether, Article 21 of the Constitution obligates the Central/State Governments to carry out mass tests of public generally to trace those infected by COVID-19 for their isolation and treatment to break the chains of disease transmission?
Whether, the public trust, being PMNRF constituted in the year 1948 has become redundant and void in view of 2005 Act which
has squarely covered the field inhabited by the said trust?
Whether, the PM-Cares Fund (public charitable trust) created by the Central Government with a view to collect funds or any grant made by any person or institution for the purpose of disaster management, adversely affects the scheme of NDRF, constituted by the Central Government, under the 2005 Act to cope with such a situation, in regard to the field occupied by the said Act?
Whether, the CM-Relief Funds created by the State Governments with a view to collect funds or any grant made by any person or institution for the purpose of disaster management, adversely affect the scheme of SDRF, constituted by the State Governments, under the 2005 Act to cope with such a situation, in regard to the field occupied by the said Act?
Whether, creation of non-statutory public charitable trust/fund by Prime Minister and Chief Minsters, being PM-Cares Funds and various CM-Relief Funds and promoting the same, who are also concerned with promoting NDRF/SDRF, is justified and permissible under public policy and within the scheme of the 2005 Act, keeping in view the clash of interests among such funds?
Whether, the Central and State Governments are competent to create public trusts in derogation of the 2005 Act?
Whether, the public trusts being the PMNRF, PM-Cares Fund and CM-Relief Funds are liable to be declared as collection agencies for collecting money in relation to and for the purposes of NDRF/SDRF under the 2005 Act and the funds so collected are liable to be transferred/credited to the account of the NDRF/SDRF, as the case may be?