SC Issues Notice on Plea By Sucheta Dalal That Information on Unclaimed Amounts Lying In Dormant Accounts Be Made Publicly Available On a Centralised Platform
MAS Team | 13 August 2022
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The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to ministries of finance, corporate affairs, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI) in a plea by Sucheta Dalal, managing editor of Moneylife and founder-trustee of Moneylife Foundation. The plea, taken up by senior counsel Prashant Bhushan is about making public on centralised platform details of unclaimed money of investors and depositors taken by various regulators and remains inaccessible to rightful legal heirs. 
 
While issuing notices, the bench of justice S Abdul Nazeer and justice JK Maheswari noted that the issue dealt with an important question. 
 
Mr Bhushan, representing Ms Dalal, said, "Notices have been issued (in this case), which is returnable in eight weeks. The Bench felt it was an important issue."
 
In her plea, Ms Dalal contended that unclaimed funds of the public that get transferred to government-owned funds like the Depositor's Education and Awareness Fund (DEAF), Investor's Education and Protection Fund (IEPF) and Senior Citizen's Welfare Fund (SCWF) on the ground that the legal heirs or nominees did not claim the same, should be made available to the legal heirs or nominees by providing information of holders of inoperative or dormant accounts on a centralised online database.
 
As per the petition, DEAF had Rs39,264.25 crore at the end of March 2021, up from Rs33,114 crore on 31 March 2020 and a sharp rise from Rs18,381 crore at the end of March 2019. Further, the amount lying with the IEPF, which started at Rs400 crore in 1999, was ten times higher at Rs4,100 crore at the end of March 2020. During the past five years, life and non-life insurance companies have transferred Rs1,723.20 crore to the SCWF.
 
The petition urges to develop a centralised online database under the control of RBI that will provide information about the deceased account holder, including such details as the name, address and last date of transaction by the deceased account holder. Further, it should be mandatory for banks to inform RBI about the inoperative or dormant bank accounts, and this exercise should be repeated after an interval of nine to 12 months. 
 
"...the need for a centralised database providing information of deceased account holders also becomes extremely essential when seen in the context of the already existing time consuming and cumbersome process that legal heirs have to go through while making claims after the death of an individual," the plea submitted.