‘PM CARES (Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situation) Fund is not a public authority,’ - the standard RTI (Right To Information) reply that RTI applicants get from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The Quint has, in earlier reports, listed multiple reasons explaining why PM CARES does not qualify to be a public authority, and therefore, should be answerable under RTI.
One of the reasons that makes PM CARES a public authority is the use of gov.in domain name which as per government guidelines can be allotted only to public authorities or government departments or ministries. Then how did PM CARES manage to get a gov.in domain if it is not a public authority.
Since the PMO refused to divulge any information under RTI – RTI applications were filed in other government departments and ministries to get a response. But the PMO stopped other departments from sharing information.
Neeraj Sharma, an RTI activist, filed an RTI with National Informatics Centre (NIC), with these simple queries on PM CARES.
Please provide the total amount spent on development, design, hosting, domain registration etc for pmcares.gov.in.
Please provide certified copies of all communication or instructions received from the PMO or any other Government of India department for registration and hosting of the domain pmcares.gov.in.
In reply to the first question, the NIC said, ‘developed in-house’ but refused to answer the second question citing – ‘PM CARES is not a public authority’.
Sharma filed first appeal on the same RTI. This time he received a detailed answer from NIC. The RTI reply said,
"“Information related to all communication or instructions or documents received from PMO has been deemed as 3rd party information...to obtain the approval/ no objection of PMO was done by the NIC RTI division as per the RTI Act. In all such cases the following instructions was received from the Prime Minister’s Office in the matter of RTI queries related to PM CARES Fund : PM CARES Fund is not a public authority under the ambit of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005. Therefore, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology may not disclose any information in respect of PM CARES Fund.”"
Which in other words means that the PMO stopped NIC from sharing information under the RTI.
Sharma filed another RTI to get certified copies of third party notice letter written by NIC to the PMO and the PMOs reply.
In reply Sharma received NIC’s letter to the PMO saying,
"“As per section 11 of the RTI Act, 2005, the Chief Public Information Officer (CPIO), NIC is requesting your (PMO) office to make a submission in writing whether the information… be disclosed. It is requested that a response may be provided within ten days from the date of receipt of the notice by your office to make representation for or against the proposed disclosure.”"
In response the PMO said,
"“PM CARES Fund is not a public authority under the ambit of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005. Therefore, M/o (Ministry of) Electronics and Information Technology may not disclose any information in respect of PM CARES FUND.” "
The question is –
When the PMO, which is a public authority, is handling queries and records, then how can PM CARES not be a public authority?
PM CARES FUND can be allocated GOV.IN which can only be used by public authorities or government departments but still PM CARES cannot be called a public authority. Why?
Why is PMO stopping NIC from sharing basic information on the formation of pmcares.gov.in domain name?
Too many questions but no answer.
PM CARES Fund was set up in March 2020 to help those in distress due to COVID-19 pandemic. By denying information under RTI, the PMO has made PM CARES a non-transparent institution. We, the people, who donated to PM CARES with the hope that our hard-earned money will help those affected but the PMO’s efforts to not divulge information about PM CARES Fund raises doubt on the utilisation of the collected funds.
. Read more on India by The Quint.Sunday View: The Best Weekend Opinion Reads, Curated Just For YouWhy Tanishq Should Have Stood by Their Ad for a Secular India . Read more on India by The Quint.