The PM-CARES fund set up to fight Coronavirus has been defined as a government trust for corporate donations, a clause in the trust documents refers to it as a private entity, which exempts from RTI scrutiny.
The Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund was set up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March to "deal with emergency or distress situations like the coronavirus pandemic" on March 27.
The PM-CARES trust has been registered with the revenue department of Delhi, with the Prime Minister as chairperson and senior ministers as trustees. However, the trust deed made public on the fund's website does not define it as a government trust.
Point 5.3 of the Trust Deed says: "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."
On March 28, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs qualified PM-CARES as a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative to receive corporate donations.
The 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 show that the Ministry of Corporate Affairs defined PM-CARES as a "fund set up by the central government". However, the trust deed said it was not government-run, so PM-CARES is not eligible for corporate donations.
The contradiction continued until almost two months later, on May 26, the Corporate Affairs Ministry added PM-CARES Fund to the Companies Act retrospectively from March 28.
Meanwhile, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday raised questions on the transparency of the PM-Cares fund.