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Suit filed in Pune court seeking to bring PM CARES Fund under RTI

A civil suit has been filed in a local court in Pune seeking to bring the PM Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (CARES) Fund under the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.

The suit, filed on Saturday by city-based lawyer Tosif Shaikh on behalf of social worker Rajesh Bajaj and Satish Gaikwad of the Republican Party of India (I) at the city’s Senior Division Court in Shivajinagar, has also sought that the PM CARES Fund be declared “null and void” if the Centre did not bring it under the ambit of the RTI Act.

Mr. Gaikwad, one of the petitioners, said that after declaring it void, all donations be refunded to respective donors or alternatively, the money could be given to the Maharashtra government as “financial aid in combating the COVID-19 crisis” as the State had the highest cases and fatalities in the country.

“With the surge in COVID-19 cases in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 28 had announced the creation of the PM CARES fund despite the fact that there already was a Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) to deal with emergencies, calamities and emerging medical expenses. The PMNRF was established more than 70 years ago. There was no need for the PM CARES, which till date has not been subjected to any external audit despite repeated demands,” Mr. Shaikh said.

Mr. Shaikh said the petitioners had issued a notice regarding the same to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on May 5, to which no reply had been forthcoming from the PMO.

“On May 21, we had sent a reminder to the PMO, but received no reply again. Hence, we have filed this suit,” he said.

The suit further contended that despite the creation of such a fund, the Centre failed to provide any relief to migrant labourers stranded by the lockdown and who were constrained to walk for hundreds of kilometres to their home towns, resulting in several labourers losing their lives in the process.

“The Central government under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi even failed to provide adequate personal protective equipment kits, ventilators, beds and other materiel to combat the pandemic across the country, resulting in the deaths of many patients, especially in Maharashtra,” the suit alleged.

Advocate Shaikh said the Shivajinagar court had set the date of hearing the suit on June 23.

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