Quote: Anshika Saini, PM CARES Fund and PMNRF: Analyzing the Associated Legal Concerns, JURIST – Student Commentary, May 5, 2020, www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/05/anshika-saini-pm-cares-fund/ The Supreme Court of India had previously dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Manohar Lal Sharma to challenge the legality of setting up the PM CARES Fund for COVID-19. in April 2020.  However, the Prime Minister`s Office and other government agencies subsequently refused to provide information about the CARES PM Fund on the basis that it was not an organization. Subsequent disclosures in PM CARES` trust deed indicated that the Fund was not a public body and therefore donations to the Fund were not eligible for CSR exemptions. To remedy the illegality of the original exemption, the Department of Corporate Affairs amended the relevant schedule to the Companies Act 2013 to allow CSR donations to funds not established by the Government of India. The change was made retroactively to cover all donations made prior to the change.   Information obtained by the Huffington Post under the Right to Information Act revealed that the exemptions were made at the request of a Bhaskar Kulbe, an adviser to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  An appeal challenging the legitimacy of the Cares PM Fund to the Supreme Court asserted that “oceans of money” are diverted to the fund every day by government departments, agencies, departments, etc. as “contributions.” In September 2020, an anonymous user of the social information aggregation site Reddit bought a domain name “pmcares.fund” and created a satirical browser game. The site displays a browser game where a character representing Prime Minister Narendra Modi overcomes several hurdles, including justice, media, and business, as well as an error message stating that details of the CARES PM Fund are not available due to lack of government disclosures. The site has attracted a lot of attention on several social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook.    Immediately after the fund was created, several fake accounts were discovered in circulation.
While the original UPI accounts were pmcares@sbi and pmcares@iob, the Delhi police hired a person to create a UPI account who removed the “s” called pmcare@sbi to scam people.  The Press Office of India published a clarification on Twitter confirming its information about the donations to ensure that the funds were not given to fraudulent accounts.  This fund receives huge amounts of donations for the cause, so it is only good to hope, for now, that this fund is not just a promotional meatball on behalf of the Prime Minister, but that he really “cares” about the country. Many questions and problems were raised regarding the legality and constitutionality of the PMNRF and the creation of PM CARES in the same vein, with minor amendments. The new fund seems to raise the same issues again, with an additional question about the need for duplication. After analyzing the two funds, we can say that neither of them is perfect. However, this does not reduce redundancy in the creation of the CARES PM Fund, as it is by no means better modelled than the PRNRF. There is no constitutional explanation and the government has yet to address the concerns expressed.
This situation is alarming because the fund receives huge donations and has already become the target of scams. People have lost their money due to fraudulent activities such as setting up similarly named funds, similar websites, etc. Even one of the prominent leaders of BJP Maharashtra tweeted the fake ID card – pmcaresfund.in instead of pmindia.gov.in. A bona fide error or deliberate fraud. However, the government must take constructive steps to address emerging concerns by first addressing the immediate problems of these fraudulent activities. According to a survey, there has been a sudden increase in Covid-19 cybercrime. Therefore, the government needs to raise awareness. And then address all the legal concerns associated with it, because they are no less important.
Better transparency frameworks need to be developed and the legality of the Fund clarified. Second, the appointment of members of Cabinet as administrators to administer the funds unduly extends the scope of the ministerial function beyond the constitutionally defined mandate. These functions are exercised ex officio, are attached to the public service and are therefore not of a private nature. Moreover, the deep and pervasive control of these funds by members of the firm as ex officio administrators leads to a fearless character of a “state” accessible to the jurisdiction of the courts. The consolidated fund referred to in Article 266(1) shall be the depositary of all capital income and income, an emergency fund referred to in Article 267 shall constitute a basis for contingency payment and a public account referred to in Article 266(2) shall constitute the residual corpus under the State contribution. Article 266, paragraph 2, read in conjunction with article 284 (a), provides that funds received or deposited with the Government, other than public revenue or funds, shall be paid into a public account. Therefore, funds that do not belong to the government as such, but are deposited under its administration, constitute a public account. Therefore, public donations deposited in representation of public offices and managed by a thorough and complete control of the State are all covered by Article 266(2).