The amounts involved are large. As of the end of February, about Rs 35,000 crore was lying as unclaimed deposits in over 10.2 crore accounts. Though it is lower than last year’s Rs 48,000 crore, the amount lying unclaimed in banks, led by SBI, has almost doubled from Rs 18,000 crore in 2019.
Similarly, at the end of March 2022, the Investor Education and Protection Fund (IEPF) was sitting on a pile of over Rs 5,200 crore, and it is growing. Under the law, matured deposits with companies, debentures and redemption amount Preference shares flow into the fund. Similarly, all shares for which dividend has not been paid or claimed for seven consecutive years or more are to be transferred by the companies to the IEPF.
The IEPF’s latest annual report estimated that at the end of 2021-22, the agency had over 105 crore shares available, though the value was not disclosed. A paper released by the Association of Registered Investment Advisors estimated Rs 24,000 crore lying unclaimed in mutual funds. Industry experts said it is difficult to assess.
The regulators are now expected to put pressure on banks, market participants and insurance companies to settle dues on a war footing with the IEPF under the supervision of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA), which is also expected to play a major role. In fact, last month RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das announced the launch of a unified portal so that depositors do not have to visit multiple websites.
While banks are expected not only to seek out depositors or their heirs and help them settle money lying with them, the situation on the ground is different, with branch managers often reluctant to settle claims. The situation is almost similar with IEPF, which settled 26,044 claims and distributed 61 lakh shares and dividends of less than Rs 11 crore during 2021-22.