Observing that it is upon the ‘will’ of the trustees of the trust Prime Minister's Citizens Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situation (PMCARES) to disclose its funds or not, the Bombay High Court, on Thursday, dismissed a plea seeking disclosure of the funds received and spent by the union government under the fund.
The HC also said if a person has his or her own doubt in donating money, s/he still has the right to not donate any amount. The HC further held that even if someone donates money, s/he cannot insist the government to disclose the funds received and spent on public platforms.
A bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and Anil Kilor further, while dismissing the plea, also said that appointing opposition leaders on the board, cannot be ordered by any court as the PMCARES is governed by its own Trust Deeds.
The bench even noted that the PMCARES is a ‘registered charitable trust.’
"If there is no provision made in the Trust Deed for inducting some members of the opposition political parties into Board of Trustees by nomination, and there is also no such requirement of law, which is the case here without any dispute, there is no way that an outsider would knock at the doors of this court seeking direction to the trust to amend its Trust Deed," Justice Shukre noted.
The bench further said it is upon the ‘will’ of the trustees and the chairperson of the PMCARES fund to nominate or appoint opposition leaders to the board.
"It is sufficient to indicate that will of the founding trustees and not the wishful thinking of outsiders in such a case, is what matters, is what prevails over desire of strangers, and is what will receive reverence from law, as long as the will is expressed by the trustees in tandem with law, about which there can be no dispute here," the judges held.
The bench noted that the rules governing PMCARES grant enabling powers to the chairperson (Prime Minister), which does not mandate him to appoint or nominate three trustees to the board.
"Absent the nominated trustees, the Board of Trustees is neither deficient, nor incomplete, nor incapable of taking any decision in its wisdom," Justice Shukre said in his orders.
The bench further pointed out that, since the funds aren't provided by the government, there can be no directive for appointing opposition leaders on its board.
As far as disclosure of funds received and spent is concerned, the bench noted that the scheme's underlying objection is of proper utilization.
"There can be no two opinions about the underlying object of public disclosure. It is to ensure proper utilization of the fund money sourced from proper persons. This very object can be seen to be more than fulfilled in the present case by the registration of the fund as a charitable trust and appointing a chartered accountant as auditor, who would be bound to balance and audit accounts of the fund in accordance with law," the judges observed.
The bench further noted the contributions to the fund are voluntary in nature and that there is no compulsion for anyone to donate.
"So, such a person would well be within his right to not donate his money to the fund. From this perspective also, no insistence can be made by a person donating his money in his discretion upon making of public disclosures of the utilisation of the fund money on a public platform, bypassing the proper platform provided under the Trust Act applicable to a charitable trust like the PMCARES Fund," Justice Shukre held.