Government failed to set up disaster response fund, says HC

Court tells Chief Secretary to ensure compliance of its order

Observing that the State government failed to set up the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) from the past 13 years and even after several directions by the court in this regard since July 2019, the Karnataka High Court on Thursday directed the Chief Secretary to file an affidavit on complying with the court’s directions on effective implementation of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

Though the Union government has declared COVID-19 as a “notified disaster” under the Disaster Management Act, and Karnataka grappled with a large number of COVID-19 positive cases, the government us yet to set up the SDRF notwithstanding the fact that the fund should have been established when the State Disaster Management Authority came into existence, the court observed.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum issued the direction during the hearing of separate PIL petitions filed by High Court Legal Services Committee and Mallikarjuna A. of Chelur village in Gubbi taluk in Tumakuru district for enforcement of the DM Act.

Though the government said that it has earmarked around ₹200 crore towards the State Disaster Mitigation Fund (SDMF), and around ₹33,000 each for every district under the District DMF, the bench noted that the creation of Disaster Mitigation Fund is only on paper.

Meanwhile, the bench directed the Chief Secretary to inform the court whether the government is willing to exercise the power conferred on the State to create rules under the DM Act for effective implementation of the Act, as there was no clarity on framing of the rules in the statement filed by the government.

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