Section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 defines “Public Authority”
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.
Harsha Kandukuri, a LLM student at the Azim Premji University filed a RTI Application seeking information about the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund). She sought the copies of the Trust Deed of the PM CARES Fund along with the Government Orders, Notifications and Circulars relating to its creation and operation.
The Prime Minister’s Office dismissed Harsha’s RTI Application quoting
“PM CARES Fund is not a public authority as per the definition of “Public Authority” contained in Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005.
The definition of ‘public authority’ also includes bodies owned, controlled or substantially financed by the government and non-governmental organizations substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the Appropriate Government.
“By denying PM CARES fund the status of ‘public authority’, it is only reasonable to infer that it is not controlled by the Government. If that is the case, who is controlling it? The name, composition of the trust, control, usage of emblem, government domain name everything signifies that it is a public authority. By simply ruling that it’s not a public authority and denying the application of RTI Act, the Government has constructed walls of secrecy around it. This is not just about lack of transparency and denying the application of the RTI Act to the fund, we should also be worried about how the fund is being operated. We do not know about the decision making process of the trust and safeguards available, so that the fund is not misused. For a trust which is created and run by 4 cabinet ministers in their ex-officio capacities, denying the status of ‘public authority’ is a big blow to transparency and not to mention our democratic values”Harsha Kandukuri
It is also not clear if the PM CARES Fund can be subjected to audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India. Following the creation of the fund, opposition members raised many queries as to why a separate fund was needed when the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund was already there.
Is the PMO really justified in denying the access to the trust documents of the PM CARES Fund by just claiming it not being a “Public Authority” hence escaping the purview of RTI Act? Stay Tuned On Legalogy To find more.