In a PIL filed by CPIL (Centre for Public Interest Litigation) with a prayer to direct UOI to prepare a to prepare, notify and implement a National Disaster Management Plan specifically for pandemic COVID-19 irrespective of National Disaster Management Plan notified in November, 2019; to issue direction to utilize National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) created under Section 46 of the Act for the purpose of providing assistance in the fight of COVID-19; to direct the Central Govt. that 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; and all the funds and grants deposited till date in the PM Care Fund shall be deposited into the NDRF.
While arguing from the side of the petitioners senior Adv. Dhushyant Dave contended that though a National disaster Management plan 2019 has been notified and is in effect the same is ineffective for tackling the pandemic of Covid- 19. The petitioner also contended that NDRF shall be the upfront fund for all the donation and grants contributed by individuals to assist with the pandemic and not PM Care Fund as to there is no provision in 2019 Plan to give fund to NDRF which is in violation of section 46 of Disaster Management Act and since NDRF is audited by the CAG and PM CARES Fund is rather subject to private audits only.
The court while extensively analyzing the 2019 plan observed that, “we do not find any merit in the claim of the petitioner that Union of India be directed to prepare a National Plan under Section 11 for COVID-19. 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. We, thus, hold that Union of India is not obliged to prepare, notify and implement a fresh National Disaster Management Plan for COVID-19”.
The court then dismissed the petition by observing that the provision for to give fund to NDRF under the plan of 2015-16 is still operational and therefore it is still possible to directly contribute to NDRF and therefore it is best for the Union of India to decide which fund to utilize, and while examining the constitution of PM CARES Fund the court by relying on Mulla Gulam Ali & Safiabai D. Trust Vs. Deelip Kumar & Co., (2003) 11 SCC 772. observed that, “the mere fact that administration of the Trust is vested in trustees, i.e., a group of people, will not itself take away the public character of the Trust” and since the trust does not receive any Budgetary support or any Government money. It is not open for the petitioner to question the wisdom of trustees to create PM CARES fund which was constituted with an objective to extend assistance in the wake of public health emergency that is pandemic COVID-19.