RTI – CIC, RTI Backlog, etc.

PM-CARES is not a public authority under RTI Act

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PM-CARES, Public Authority under RTI

Mains level : RTI issues

The PMO has refused to disclose details on the creation and operation of the PM-CARES Fund, telling a Right to Information applicant that the fund is “not a public authority” under the ambit of the RTI Act, 2005.

Practice question for mains:

Q. The PM-CARES fund is an old wine in a new bottle. Discuss its feasibility and how it is different in context to the PMNRF.

About PM-CARES Fund

  • The fund will be a public charitable trust under the name of ‘Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund’.
  • The PM is Chairman of this trust and members include the Defence Minister, Home Minister and Finance Minister.
  • Contributions to the fund will qualify as corporate social responsibility (CSR) spending that companies are mandated to make.
  • The Fund accepts micro-donations as well.

Not a public authority

  • The PMO cited a Supreme Court observation that indiscriminate and impractical demands under RTI Act for disclosure of all and sundry information would be counterproductive.
  • PM-CARES Fund is not a Public Authority under the ambit of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005.
  • However, relevant information in respect of PM-CARES Fund may be seen on its website.

Then, what makes an authority, Public?

The relevant section of the RTI Act defines a “public authority” as “any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted —

  • by or under the Constitution;
  • by any other law made by Parliament;
  • by any other law made by State Legislature;
  • by the notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government — and includes any (i) body owned, controlled or substantially financed; (ii) NGO substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate govt.

Arguments against PM-CARES

  • The fund carries a public name, the composition of the trust, control, usage of an emblem, government domain name etc. that signifies it as a public authority.
  • PM is the ex-officio chairman of the Trust, while three cabinet ministers are ex-officio trustees.
  • The composition of the trust is enough to show that Government exercises substantive control over the trust, making it a public authority.
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