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NEW DELHI : The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a petition to transfer money from the PM CARES Fund created to fight covid-19 to the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF), adding that donations to both are voluntary, and the Centre is at liberty to transfer the money if it so desires.

The public interest litigation (PIL), filed by lawyers Prashant Bhushan and Dushyant Dave, had also sought directions to the government to prepare and implement a national plan as per the provisions under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, to tackle the damage caused by the covid-19 pandemic. After a detailed hearing, the judgement was reserved on 27 July.

“PM CARES Fund is an entirely different fund established as a public charitable trust. Funds in PM CARES cannot be directed to be deposited to NDRF," the bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan said in its judgment.

In the 75-page judgement, the top court refused the plea for formulation of a national plan for covid management, observing that the existing plan under the Disaster Management Act is sufficient to deal with the pandemic. The bench, also comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.R. Shah, observed that the court has formulated five questions to be answered with respect to this plea. The questions include whether the Centre can create separate funds despite the NDRF being in place and, secondly, whether all contributions/grants should be credited to NDRF from PM CARES.

The bench clarified that anybody could contribute to PM CARES fund and also that there is no statutory prohibition in place which prevents any person from contributing to NDRF. As long as it is a voluntary contribution, the grants made as contributions can be credited to NDRF.

Looking into the constitution of both fund organizations, the court said PM CARES funds need not be transferred to NDRF. The bench also observed that Centre is at liberty to transfer the funds to NDRF in case it deems appropriate.

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