A PIL in the Bombay High Court seeks directions to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to remove the name and image of the 'Prime Minister' from the PM CARES fund's trust deed and official website.
The petition filed by the district president of the Indian National Congress party, Thane, further seeks removal of the State Emblem of India and the National Flag, calling it a violation of The Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 and Rules, and The State Emblem of India (Prohibition of Improper use) Act, 2005 and Rules.
A division bench of Justices AA Sayed and SG Dige adjourned the matter to October 25, after the Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh said he would take instructions for the Centre.
Petitioner Vikrant Chavan claims that if the reliefs prayed for are not granted, then said names and emblems would lose their sanctity and significance.
The interim and final reliefs sought are as follows:-
"The petitioner is seeking directions against Respondent No 2 (Modi) thereby directing him to take steps forthwith to remove the name of the "PRIME MINISTER" and Emblem "STATE EMBLEM OF INDIA" from the registered TRUST DEED dated March 27, 2020, by which Respondent No.1 (trust) was constituted and also remove Name "PRIME MINISTER", Pictorial Representation ie. "DEPICTING PHOTOGRAPHS OF PRIME MINISTER and INDIAN NATIONAL FLAG" and Emblem "STATE EMBLEM OF INDIA'' from the site of Respondent No.1 viz. pmcares.gov.in and such other material prepared for Respondent No.1 (trust)."
The plea states that the PM CARES Fund (Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund) claims to be a charitable trust without any budgetary support with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as its ex-officio chairman.
Donations to the trust would qualify for 80G benefits for 100% exemption under the Income Tax Act, 1961. The plea adds that donations will also qualify to be counted as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) expenditure.
It states that up to March 31, 2020, trust claims to have collected Rs. 3076.62 Crores.
The Minister of Defence, Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Finance, Government of India are ex-officio Trustees.
All members are appointed in their personal capacity despite being referred to by their designation in the GoI. "There is no provision in the TRUST DEED that the Government can issue such directives as it deems necessary and the Respondent No.1 is bound to carry out the same", the petitioner claims.
According to the plea, Non-government entities are altogether excluded and are prohibited to use names and emblems. Granting permission to the non-government entities would defeat the object of the Act of 1950, Act of 2005.
The plea states that the Act of 1950 was enacted to prevent the improper use of certain emblems and names for professional and commercial purposes. Section 3 prohibits the improper use of certain emblems and names. Contravention of the section is punishable with a fine of Rs 500.
The PIL notes that it violates section 3 read with 9A of the 1950 Act. Moreover, using the State Emblem would violate Section 3 read with Schedule of the Act of 2005 read with Rule 10(3) of Rules of 2007.
A conjoint reading of the Act of 1950 with Rules of 1982 clearly indicates that the use of names and emblems set out in the Schedule of the Act of 1950 is prohibited except in such cases and under such conditions prescribed by the central government, the plea states.
"The Respondent No.2 (Narendra Modi) is therefore expected to preserve the sanctity of the names, emblems and pictorial - representations as provided in the Schedules of Act of 1950 and Act of 2005 by not using them contrary to provisions of Act of 1950, Rules of 1982, Act of 2005 and Rules of 2007," the plea states.
The plea claims that though the trust deed is registered at Delhi, appeals for donations to the Trust were made throughout the country; therefore, the petition is maintainable.