Centre for Public Interest Litigation v. Union of India
WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 546 OF 2020 decided on 18.08.2020
Bench: Ashok Bhushan, J, R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah, JJ
Petitioners have also sought for directions from the Hon’ble Supreme Court to utilize National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) for the purposes of providing assistance in the fight against COVID-19 and all the contributions/grants from individuals/institutions be credited in NDRF and not to PM CARES Fund and all funds collected in PM CARES Fund till date should be directed to be transferred to NDRF.
1. Whether the Union of India under Section 11 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, is obliged to prepare, notify and implement a National Disaster Management Plan(NDMP) specifically for pandemic COVID-19 irrespective of NDMP notified in November, 2019?
The Supreme Court held that Union of India is not obliged to prepare, notify and implement a fresh National Disaster Management Plan for COVID-19 because National Plan, 2019 have already been there in place supplemented by various orders and measures taken by competent authorities under Disaster Management Act, 2005, there is no occasion or need to issue any direction to Union of India to prepare a fresh National Plan for COVID-19.
Whether the Union of India is obliged to lay down the minimum standards of relief under section 12 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, for COVID-19 irrespective of earlier guidelines issued under section 12 of the Act laying down the minimum standards of relief?
[Section 12 deals with guidelines for Minimum Standards of relief]
The court held that the minimum standards of relief as laid down prior to COVID-19 is enough to deal with the pandemic. Government of India vide order dated 14.03.2020 has decided to treat COVID-19, as a notified disaster for the purpose of providing assistance under State Disaster Response Fund, norms of assistance for ex-gratia payment to families of deceased persons, norms of assistance for COVID-19 positive persons requiring hospitalization and some other assistance to be provided from State Disaster Response Fund have been notified by the government of India.
Therefore, the court held that the Government of India is not obliged to lay down minimum standards of relief under section 12 of the Disaster Management Act,2005 for COVID-19 and the guidelines issued under section 12 for providing for minimum standard of relief holds good for current pandemic also.
Whether Union of India is obliged to utilise National Disaster Response Fund created under Section 46 of the Act for the purpose of providing assistance in the fight of COVID-19?
The Court held that Centre can utilise NDRF for providing assistance in the fight of COVID-19 pandemic by way of releasing fund on the request of the State as per new guidelines. There is no statutory prohibition for the Union of India utilizing the NDRF for providing assistance in the fight of COVID-19 in accordance with the guidelines issued for administration of NDRF.
Whether all the contributions/grants from individuals and institutions should be credited to the NDRF in terms of Section 46(1) (b) of the Act rather than PM CARES Fund?
The Court held that any contribution, grant of any individual or institution is not prohibited to be credited into the NDRF and it is still open for any person or institution to make contribution to the NDRF in terms of section 46(1)(b) of the Act, 2005. The contribution by any person or by any institution in PM CARES Fund is voluntary and it is open for any person or institution to make contribution to the PM CARES Fund. There is no statutory prohibition in making any contribution by any person or institution in the NDRF as per Section 46(1)(b) of the Act, 2005.
Whether all the funds collected in the PM CARES Fund till date be directed to be transferred to the NDRF?
The Court said that PM CARES Fund has been constituted as a public charitable trust and after outbreak of pandemic COVID-19, need of having a dedicated national fund with objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation, like posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to provide relief to the affected, a fund was created by constituting a trust with Prime Minister as an ex officio Chairman of PM CARES Fund, with other ex officio and nominated Trustees of the Fund. The PM CARES Fund consists entirely of voluntary contributions from individuals/organisations and does not get any Budgetary support. No Government money is credited in the PM CARES Fund.
The funds collected in the PM CARES Fund are entirely different funds which are funds of a public charitable trust and there is no occasion for issuing any direction to transfer the said funds to the NDRF.
Therefore, the court refused prayer of the petitioner to direct all the funds collected in the PM CARES Fund till date to be transferred to the NDRF.