Judgement of the Supreme Court of India regarding formulation of a national plan to deal with COVID-19, 18/08/2020

  • 18/08/2020

The Judgement of the Supreme Court of India in the matter of Centre for Public Interest Litigation Vs Union of India dated 18/08/2020.

This writ petition filed as a public interest litigation has been filed in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic, seeking direction to the Union of India to prepare, notify and implement a national plan to deal with COVID-19. Petitioners also sought for directions 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.

Petitioner’s case in the writ petition was that the National Plan uploaded on the website of National Disaster Management Authority of the year 2019 does not deal with situations arising out of the current pandemic and has no mention of measures like lockdown, containment zones, social distancing etc.

Counter affidavit filed on behalf of the Union of India stated that National Disaster Management Plan provides for a broad framework in terms of the response to be provided in pursuance to a National Plan in case of any disaster. National Disaster Management Authority had issued various orders from time to time to take effective measures found required at the relevant point of time to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country. National Disaster Management Authority has, in order to create preparedness with regard to any contingent biological disaster, had framed the “National Disaster Management Guidelines Management of Biological Disasters”.

National Disaster Management Authority has framed broad template for state level and district level for contingency plan for COVID-19. Replying the averments in the writ petition regarding PM CARES Fund and NDRF, the counter affidavit pleaded that there are several funds which are either established earlier or now for carrying out various relief works. PM CARES Fund was one of such funds with voluntary donations.

The SC said that the NDRF and PM CARES Fund were two entirely different funds with different object and purpose. The Union of India can very well utilize the NDRF for providing assistance in the fight of COVID-19 pandemic by way of releasing fund on the request of the states as per new guidelines. The funds collected in the PM CARES Fund are entirely different funds which are funds of a public charitable trust. The prayer of the petitioner (Centre for Public Interest Litigation) to direct all the funds collected in the PM CARES Fund till date to be transferred to the NDRF was refused by the apex court.