The Prime Minister's Office on Tuesday told the Bombay high court there was no restriction on the use of the prime minister's name and photograph as well as the image of the national flag and emblem for the PM CARES Fund.
In an affidavit submitted before a division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice M S Karnik, PMO Under Secretary Pradeep Srivastava said the PM's photograph, name and national emblem were also used in the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund (PMNRF).
The affidavit was filed in response to a petition filed by Congress worker Vikrant Chavan seeking deletion of the prime minister's name and photograph from the PM CARES Fund.
It had also sought the deletion of images of the national flag and emblem from the official website of the Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund.
The plea claimed the usage of the prime minister's photograph and the image of the national flag and emblem were in violation of the Constitution as well as The Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act.
In its affidavit, the PMO said, 'I say that PM CARES Fund and PMNRF are both chaired by the prime minister. As the name, photograph of prime minister and National Emblem are being used for the PMNRF, they are also being used for the PM CARES Fund.'
It said the Flag Code of India, 2002, which brings together all laws, conventions, practices and instructions regarding display of the national flag, provides that there shall be no restriction on its display by general public, private organisations, educational institutions and so on, except to the extent provided in Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act.
As per the affidavit, the prime minister is the chairperson (ex officio) of PM CARES Fund and the Minister of Defence, Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Finance are ex officio trustees.
'All the trustees of the PM CARES Fund act in a pro-bono capacity. The composition of the Board of Trustees consisting of holders of public office ex officio is merely for administrative convenience and smooth succession to the trusteeship,' the PMO affidavit said, and sought that Chavan'a petition be dismissed.
The HC bench on Tuesday posted the matter for further hearing after three weeks.
The PM CARES Fund was set up on March 27, 2020 as a public charitable trust in order to extend support and relief for a public health emergency or any other kind of emergency or calamity.
Chavan's plea had said the trust does not discharge any governmental or sovereign functions, nor was it a Government of India fund, and the amount collected by it does not go to the Consolidated Fund of India.
Stating that it would be improper for the trust to use the name of the prime minister or his photograph and the image of the national flag and emblem on its official website, the plea had sought deletion of the same.