According to a recent report in NDTV, the PM-CARES fund, a charitable trust under the law, has told Delhi High Court that the trust’s fund is not a fund of the Government of India and its amount does not go in the Consolidated Fund of India.
In the NDTV report, PM-CARES trust has been registered with the revenue department of Delhi, with Prime Minister as chairperson and senior ministers as trustees. However, the trust deed made public recently on the fund’s website does not define it as a government trust.
“The trust is neither intended to be or is in fact owned, controlled or substantially financed by any government or any instrumentality of the government. There is no control of either the central government or any state governments, either direct or indirect, in the functioning of the trust in any manner whatsoever” says point 5.3 of the Deed.
Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund was set up by PM Modi in March to “deal with emergency or distress situations like the coronavirus pandemic”.
PM Cares trust was registered on March 27. On March 28, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs issued an office memorandum qualifying PM-CARES as a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative to receive corporate donations.
PM CARES Fund is not a Government Fund but a Publich Charity and not eligible for RTI File?
Companies Act defines eligibility for corporate donations as, “Contribution to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund or any other fund set up by the Central Government or the State Governments for socio-economic development and relief and funds for the welfare of the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, other backward classes, minorities and women.”
Documents accessed by activist Anjali Bhardwaj through an RTI query revealed that the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, while issuing the March 28 Office Memorandum, defined PM-CARES as a “fund set up by the central government”, reported NDTV.
However, the trust deed from a day before said it was not government-run, so PM-CARES could not have been eligible for corporate donations.
The contradiction went on until almost two months later, on May 26, the Corporate Affairs Ministry added PM-CARES Fund to the Companies Act retrospectively from March 28.
So for two months, PM-CARES was a private entity receiving corporate donations.
Former Finance minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram had also raised questions over the entity of PM Cares Fund in August and among several questions he had asked, “If the Fund was not set up by the central government, why are the PM and three Ministers serving as Trustees? Who appointed them as Trustees? If the Fund is a private established fund, why are donations to the Fund counted against CSR?”
What does the website say?
According to the PM CARES website, it is a Public Charitable trust. The website also mentions that it has been registered under the Registration Act, 1908 at New Delhi on 27th March 2020.
Prime Minister is the ex-officio Chairman of the PM CARES Fund and Minister of Defence, Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Finance, Government of India are ex-officio Trustees of the Fund. Donations to PM CARES Fund would qualify for 80G benefits for 100% exemption under the Income Tax Act, 1961.
It was a ‘government fund’ when started
Earlier last year, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs issued an office memorandum qualifying PM-CARES as corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative to receive corporate donations.
This goes on to indicate that the Ministry of corporate affairs considered the PM-CARES as a fund set up by the government, as it qualified the PM-CARES as CSR initiative to receive corporate donations.
However, after the government started facing flurry of questions over the fund’s status, it amended the Companies Act in May 2020. The retrospective amendment meant that the CSR activity would no longer be dependent on whether the fund has been set up by the Central Government or not.
Several ministries, Armed Forces, PSUs and even government run hospitals at the frontline of fighting Covid-19 announced that they were pledging one day’s salary to the fund. Not only that, several individuals, private corporates have also made donations to the PM-CARES.
These donations were made considering that it is a fund set up by the government of India to fight the pandemic. Though, after the government’s responses, it turns out that the fund was a private entity but had the PM and other union ministers as trustees.
Use of Emblem
The State Emblem of India (i.e. the Ashoka Pillar) is the representation of the Republic of India. The Government of India uses it as a stamp on its official documents for official usage and the State Emblem of India Act, 2005 states that only an authorized body has the authority to use it and no one else can imitate it.
The usage of the emblem by any private body is prohibited as per Section 3 of the State Emblem of India (Prohibition of Improper Use) Act, 2005 because it could give a wrong impression to the general public of being associated with the Central Government or the State Government.
Despite that, the PM-CARES, which claims to be a private entity, used the government emblem on its website and promotional posters and continues do so even now.