Context: The Supreme Court recently sought a response from the central government to a plea that contributions made to the PM CARES Fund should be transferred entirely to the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF).
More about the petition filed
- It is filed by NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation.
- It seeks a writ, order or direction to the central government to utilize NDRF for providing assistance in the fight against COVID-19 in compliance with Section 46 of the Disaster Management Act.
- It also asked the court to direct the government to frame a National Plan to deal with COVID-19 pandemic.
Status of the national plan to deal with the pandemic situations
- The latest National Plan uploaded on the website of the National Disaster Management Authority is of the year 2019.
- Also, it does not comprehensively deal with the situation arising out of the current pandemic and has no measures like lockdown, containment zones, social distancing, etc
- The part of the current National Plan which dealt with ‘Biological and Public Health Emergencies’ did not mention any of the measures that could be taken to control the pandemic.
- It is a PM-Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund set up to support the government in its fight against the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
- The fund consists entirely of voluntary contributions from individuals/organizations and does not get any budgetary support.
- Benefits of donating in the fund:
- Donations have been made tax-exempt.
- Contributions towards PM CARES Fund will be an eligible expenditure under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) obligations.
- Donations are also exempt from the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010
- It has been set up as a public charitable trust.
- Board of trustees: The Prime Minister chairs the fund in his official capacity, and can nominate three eminent persons in relevant fields to the Board of Trustees.
- The Ministers of Defence, Home Affairs and Finance are ex-officio Trustees of the Fund.
National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF)
- It is defined in Section 46 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 (DM Act) as a fund managed by the Central Government for meeting the expenses for emergency response, relief and rehabilitation due to any threatening disaster situation or disaster.
- It is constituted to supplement the funds of the State Disaster Response Funds (SDRF) of the states to facilitate immediate relief in case of calamities of a severe nature.
- Definition of a disaster:
- The DM Act defines "disaster" to mean ‘a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from natural or man-made causes, or by accident or negligence which results in substantial loss of life or human suffering or damage to, and destruction of, property, or damage to, or degradation of, environment, and is of such a nature or magnitude as to be beyond the coping capacity of the community of the affected area.
- Financing of the fund
- NDRF is financed through the levy of a cess on certain items, chargeable to excise and customs duty, and approved annually through the Finance Bill.
- The requirement for funds beyond what is available under the NDRF is met through general budgetary resources.
- Utilisation of funds
- NDRF amount can be spent only towards meeting the expenses for emergency response, relief and rehabilitation.
- For projects exclusively for the purpose of mitigation, i.e, measures aimed at reducing the risk, impact or effect of a disaster or threatening disaster situation a separate fund called National Disaster Mitigation Fund has to be constituted.
- NDRF is located in the "Public Accounts" of Government of India under "Reserve Funds not bearing interest"
- Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) audits the accounts of NDRF.
- Approvals from the fund:
- A high level committee (HLC) approves the quantum of immediate relief to be released from NDRF.
- The HLC is constituted with the Home Minister, Finance Minister, Agriculture Minister and Planning Minister / Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog as members.