A consumer welfare fund to appropriate people’s money

A fresh exercise that completely ignores the fact that large sums of money belonging to individuals, traders and businesses are appropriated by the government and remain impounded with it because of slow, corrupt and inefficient processes

Binty, a Delhi-based voluntary consumer organisation, has formulated a draft Consumer Welfare Fund Act, which aims at "recovery and consolidation of unclaimed and un-remitted money of consumers lying in waste in various commercial set-ups, e.g., banking, insurance, telecom, pharmaceutical companies, airlines, and State sales tax departments.”

It has proposed the creation of a Consumer Welfare Fund, which is separate from the one that already operates under the Consumer Affairs Ministry. According to its background paper, "the proposed Fund need not have any bearing/linkage with the Planned and Unplanned Revenue/Expenditure, Consolidated Fund and the existing CWF Fund under the Central Excise Act. The proposed Fund could be created under an Act of Parliament with special provisions for its management—assisted by staff nominated by consumer organisations in the Central Consumer Protection Council by rotation, supervised by an officer of the level of Additional Secretary, and audited annually by (the) Comptroller & Auditor General of India—and utilisation.”

Binty claims a mandate from the Ministry of Consumer Affairs to draft such an Act.

It had organised a competition to gather ideas on how to recover money from these government agencies and ministries. On 30 January 2010, it held a meeting in Delhi to discuss what it calls the draft ‘Consumer Welfare Fund Bill’ under the ‘guidance of Dr Raghubir Singh, former law secretary to the government’.

Since this round did not cover the ‘recovery’ of funds lying unclaimed/unremitted for over five years from the Income-Tax department and the Provident Fund Commissioner, it plans a second round of discussions which will be held on 20th March to figure out how to get these funds credited to the Consumer Welfare Fund, writes G C Mathur, Convenor-Trustee Treasurer of Binty. 

It has proposed that that the Central government must pass orders to transfer all such monies to the Consumer Welfare Fund. These include:
• Amounts recovered from pharmaceutical companies by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority for overcharging consumers
• Unclaimed deposits, by whatever name called, lying with a banking company for not less than ten years
• Unclaimed deposits or claim proceeds lying with an insurance company for not less than ten years
• Any commission charged by an airline from the customers and not actually passed on to the commission agents
• Any other amount which may be prescribed.

In addition, it wants State governments to transfer any excess sales tax or value-added tax or any other amount as may be "prescribed.”

According to the draft, “the money credited to the Fund shall be utilised by the Trustee Committee for the welfare of the consumers in accordance with such rules as the appropriate Government may make in this behalf.” 

A similar attempt to seize and utilise unclaimed dividends and redemption money belonging to investors under the Investor Education & Protection Fund (IEPF) has ended up with the Consolidated Fund of India (CFI). The Finance Ministry demanded that nearly Rs400 crore collected by companies through an amendment to the Companies Act (under section 205C) would have to be transferred to the CFI and the IEPF could draw only as much as it hoped to spend in a given year.{break}

The Binty Bill tries to get around this by prescribing that "The Trustee Committee" set up to administer this fund "shall be a body corporate having perpetual succession and a common seal with power to acquire, hold and dispose of property and shall, by the said name, sue and be sued.”

It will be packed by the usual government officials from the ministry and will have a three-year term. It specifically provides that all money collected under the Fund shall be deposited "in any scheduled bank or invest the same in debt instruments of any corporation owned or controlled by the appropriate Government or in loans floated by the appropriate Government or in any other manner as the appropriate Government may, from time to time, direct.”

The proposed legislation also provides to bar actions under this Bill from the jurisdiction of civil courts.

Stunningly, the Trustee Committee will also have enforcement powers to ensure transfer of funds by investing it with the "power to summon witnesses and take evidence" including enforcement of attendance, requirement of documents and examination of witnesses etc.

Interestingly, the transfer of funds sought under this Act as well the extraordinarily wide-ranging powers demanded are completely at variance from the background paper. This paper is all about companies bilking consumers under the bland "local taxes extra" legend printed on all price tags.

The convener of Binty is before the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) (Case No.OP-65/2003) on the claim that such over-charging adds up to a stupendous Rs50,000 crore every year. Similarly, it claims funding of VAT charged to consumers, but doesn't say how the funds can be transferred to the government unless the Trustee Committee ends up as another investigation agency to go after the fudging of bills and invoices by traders.

What is astonishing about this exercise, which is apparently being encouraged by the Ministry, is that it completely ignores the fact that large sums of money belonging to individuals, traders and businesses are appropriated by the government and remain impounded with it because of slow, corrupt and inefficient processes.

Deposits with nationalised banks are often unclaimed because succession laws are faulty and the depositors or their heirs are locked in legal battles for decades. The five-year or 10-year period for transfer of money is ridiculously short, when an average civil dispute takes 25 years for ultimate resolution.

Instead of examining ways of making the system more efficient, the government is keener to grab these funds and transfer them, eventually, to the consolidated fund of India.



Hitesh Chaudhary

6 years ago

treatment of unpaid Leave Travel Allowance in respect of company.
whether it is deposit to govt. department or not ?
and deposit to which departmment

R Murugan

7 years ago

Apart from unclaimed deposits Banks also have huge amounts lying with them on account of Drafts and Payorders/banker's cheques which have not been encashed by the payees. Payees include universities and also government departments like sales tax etc. Banks do not have right to use these funds and therefore a common fund could be created but who will monitor and ensure proper use of these funds?

SAT bans Shankar Sharma from trading in bourses

SAT has banned broking firm First Global's Shankar Sharma from trading in the equities market for a year

The Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT) on Friday dismissed the review application filed by First Global Stock Broking Ltd's (FGSB) Shankar Sharma against its order upholding a SEBI order which barred him from accessing the securities market.

According to a PTI report, the (review) application stands dismissed and the ban is with immediate effect, presiding officer Justice N K Sodhi said. SAT would issue the order with full details within a week, he said.

Earlier in February 2009, market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) barred Shankar Sharma from trading in the securities market for one year for indulging in synchronised trades, buying and selling at the same time, to rig share prices of 10 companies in 2001.

Following the SEBI order, Mr Sharma appealed to the SAT, which stayed the debarment order in March.

Mr Sharma had also appealed to the Supreme Court against the SEBI order in December 2009, which was later dismissed by the apex court in February this year.

SEBI had also rejected an application from First Global's UK-based subsidiary for registration as a foreign institutional investor citing Mr Sharma's poor track record. It had said that keeping First Global UK out from the securities market will not adversely affect the interest of investors.

However, keeping it in the mainstream market after considering the past behaviour of its associate entities may cause prejudice to the interest of investors, it had said.

In the February 2009 order, SEBI's whole-time director MS Sahoo had said, “First Global Stock Broking manager and Vrudhi Confinvest India Pvt Ltd (VCIP) had indulged in large transactions in 10 securities (Global Telesystems, HFCL, DSQ Software, Zee Telefilms, Wipro, Satyam Computers, MTL, SBI, Infosys Technologies and Sterlite Opticals) in early 2001.”

“As these trades for Shankar Sharma in his proprietary account, as a client of Bang Equity on the one hand and the trades of VCIP which is 100% owned by Shankar Sharma and Devina Mehra, as a client of FGSB, resulted in large-scale synchronisation which resulted in creation of large artificial volume in those shares, I hold Shankar Sharma guilty for synchronising the trades in violation of regulation 4 (b) (c) and (d) of PFUTP Regulations, 1995,” Mr Sahoo said in his February 2009 order.

Earlier, on 25 November 2009, Mr Sharma had filed a review petition on SAT's ruling upholding SEBI's ban order, on the grounds that there are certain errors in the records and arguments in the order of the appellate authority.




7 years ago

yes whatever decision has come regarding sharma is good for the health of trading point of view because what i feel is due to such manipulators only stock market fumbled so we should ban such type of investors in particular.

Media faces its ‘Gutenberg’ moment

The media industry is being transformed in a dramatic fashion due to the onslaught of online video, text, interactive graphics and much more. So how do you ensure that content is still king?

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