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Amid concerns raised over the transparency of the PM Cares Fund set up for COVID-19 relief, a Right to Information (RTI) response received by a lawyer states that the Fund does not come under the scope of "public authority" under the RTI Act.
Advocate Abhay Gupta had filed an RTI application seeking details on the PM Cares Fund, including the following:
The total amount deposited in the Fund account till date
The total amount deposited in the Fund in the last two monhts
PAN details give to open the PM Cares account
Details of the amount spent from the PM Cares Fund till date
Details of the person who deposited the highest amount till date
However, in a reply received yesterday, Gupta was informed that the PM Cares Fund is not a public authority under the RTI Act. The reply states,
Reply to RTI seeking details of PM CARES Fund
Section 2(h) of the RTI Act defines "public authority" as such:
"public authority" means any authority or body or institution of self- government established or constituted—
(a) by or under the Constitution;
(b) by any other law made by Parliament;
(c) by any other law made by State Legislature;
(d) by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government.
Under the Act only such information [as defined in Section 2(j)] which is held by or under the control of any public authority may be accessed by the general public through RTI.
In effect, the denial of the PM Cares Fund as a public authority shields it from the ambit of the RTI Act, and consequently, no citizen can obtain details pertaining to the Fund through the RTI route.
A number of citizens, including judges and staff of the Supreme Court and the High Courts, have contributed generously to the PM Cares Fund for COVID-19 relief.
The Supreme Court had earlier dismissed petitions calling into question the setting up of the PM Cares Fund.