Sahara India: Information on Depositors' Claim Not Easily Accessible, Shows RTI
Although a recent central information commission (CIC) order has given a clean chit to the central public information officer (CPIO) of the ministry of cooperation, on the grounds that the CRCS-Sahara India refund portal has all the details of the disbursal of the depositors’ refund claim of its four co-operative societies which facilitates the RTI applicant to seek information online, the ruling is closed and it does not merit penalty for the CPIO.
When I opened the Sahara refund portal website and clicked on the link, this is the pop-up I got, “Attention depositors for whom Deficiencies and/or Payment failure have been communicated. Kindly take action as per the deficiency(ies) communicated on resubmission portal
Resubmission Details:
• We are currently accepting resubmissions for claim aggregating up to 19,999; 
Announcement of dates for other eligible claims shall be done shortly; * Resubmission e-submitted claims shall be processed within 45 working days.”
To give a backdrop, as per the press information bureau (PIB) report of 6th February, the CRCS-Sahara India refund portal was launched as per the Supreme Court’s directives. 
The SC order stated that: “(i) Out of the total amount of Rs24,979.67 crore lying in the Sahara-SEBI refund account, Rs5000 crore be transferred to the central registrar of cooperative societies, who, in turn, shall disburse the same against the legitimate dues of the depositors of the Sahara group of cooperative societies, which shall be paid to the genuine depositors in the most transparent manner and on proper identification and on submitting proof of their deposits and proof of their claims and to be deposited in their respective bank accounts directly.”
Home minister Amit Shah replied in the Parliament, as per the PIB report that “The submission portal already launched on 15 November 2023. State-wise distribution of applications is not available, however, a total of around 1.21 crore applications have been registered on the CRCS-Sahara refund portal and an amount of Rs258.47 crore has been released to 2,77,607 depositors of Sahara group of cooperative societies up to 31.01.2024.”
In a series of RTI applications of 2023 by RTI applicant Ajai Tandon had sought the following information from the PIO of the ministry of cooperation and the ministry of corporate affairs, based on emails he had already sent to it on the 4th, 6th and 7th April 2023 which did not elucidate any reply:
“* List of 1673 certificates of 140 investors of Stars Multipurpose Cooperative Society Limited.
* List of 3106 certificates of 454 investors of Saharayn Universal Multipurpose Society Ltd.
* List of 5550 certificates of 884 investors of Sahara Credit Cooperative Society Ltd.
* List of 443 certificates of 94 investors of Humara India Credit Cooperative Society Ltd.
* Have you got my emails? If yes, what actions have you taken against our emails?
* Have you registered all 1574 depositors/ investors of Sahara group of cooperative societies in your record for refund?”
In his RTI application, Mr Tandon referred to the Delhi High Court (HC) order of Sahara Credit Cooperative vs Union of India on 22 March 2022 and the Supreme Court order of Pinak Pani Mohanty vs Union of India on 29 March 2023. 
The CPIO, ministry of cooperation (on receipt of RTI applications from the ministry of corporate affairs under Section 6(3) of the RTI Act) replied that “This office has received large number of representations of non-repayment of matured deposits on daily basis, directly or through various agencies. Due to huge volume, it is not possible to maintain list of such representations. Representations received were forwarded to the relevant society for payment as per norms.”
Dissatisfied, Mr Tandon filed a first appeal with the first appellate authority (FAA) but the latter replied that “the CPIO has already furnished the information.”
Aggrieved and dissatisfied, he filed a second appeal which was heard on 29 April 2024. 
At the CIC hearing, RTI applicant Mr Tandon was present through video conferencing. The ministry of corporate affairs and ministry of cooperation were represented by B Bhuvaneshwari, assistant director, O/o DGCoA, MCA and Rajender Singh, SO/CPIO.
Mr Tandon stated that he has sought action taken on information on the disbursement of legitimate dues of depositors/ investors of the Sahara group of cooperative societies in compliance with the Supreme Court order. He suggested that the CPIO should be penalised as the latter did not furnish information.
The CPIO submitted to the CIC that, “The latest position in relation to four Sahara group of cooperative societies is as follows:-
In compliance to the Supreme Court's order dated 29.03.2023, an online portal Sahara-CRCS refund portal has been developed for submission of claims by the genuine depositors of four multi-state cooperative societies of the Sahara group. The portal has been launched on 18.07.2023 and can be accessed through ministry of cooperation website and https://mocrefund.crcs. 
The genuine depositors of these societies including the instant applicant(s) may login (into) the portal and submit their refund claims by filing online application and upload requisite documents i.e. proof of their deposits and claims. Only claims filed through online portal are entertained. Subject to fund availability, the payment to the genuine depositors are credited in their Aadhaar seeded bank account within 45 days after filing their online application and they are intimated the status through SMS/ portal accordingly.”
The CPIO of the ministry of co-operation also stated that earlier there was no provision for the payment/ refund to the investors of four co-operative societies of Sahara group and accordingly the representations of the appellant were duly forwarded to the society for payment as per norms. However, now the online portal has been developed for submission of claims by the genuine depositors of four multi-state cooperative societies of the Sahara group.
He averred that the portal can be accessed through the ministry of cooperation website. He stated that the genuine depositors of these societies may log into the portal and submit their refund claims by filing an online application and upload the requisite documents i.e. proof of their deposits and claims.
He apprised the commission that only claims filed through the online portal are entertained. Furthermore, subject to fund availability, the payment to genuine depositors is credited to their Aadhaar-seeded bank account within 45 days after filing their online application.
CIC Samariya, in his decision, ordered that the CPIO must furnish a copy of the latest submissions, despite the online portal and send a compliance report to him. He observed that in an earlier second appeal by the same RTI applicant, “Commission at this stage is not inclined to accept the contention of the RTI applicant for initiating penal action against the CPIO in the absence of any malafide ascribed on their part.”
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife. She is also the convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting, which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain Award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book "To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte" with Vinita Kamte and is the author of "The Mighty Fall".)
NCLT Grants Indiabull’s Plea, Admits Subhash Chandra to Personal Insolvency
Moneylife Digital Team 22 April 2024
On 22nd April, the national company law tribunal (NCLT) in Delhi accepted Indiabulls Housing Finance's (IBHF) petition for personal insolvency against Subhash Chandra, the chairman emeritus of Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited...
Special PMLA Court Grants Bail to Yes Bank Co-founder Rana Kapoor in Rs400 Crore Loan Fraud Case
Moneylife Digital Team 22 April 2024
In a significant development, a special PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) court in Mumbai has granted bail to Yes Bank co-founder Rana Kapoor in a Rs400-crore loan fraud case. The decision, while marking a pivotal moment in Mr...
Sahara CRCS Refund Portal: A Year of Delays, Many Still Waiting for Payout
Moneylife Digital Team 20 April 2024
The refund process for Sahara investors, initiated by the Indian government early last year, has been facing tremendous delays, with a significant number of investors yet to receive any payout from the central registrar of cooperative...
Free Helpline
Legal Credit