Debasis Konar,TNN | Oct 23, 2014, KOLKATA: The Justice Shyamal Kumar Sen Commission submitted a 404-page final report to the Bengal government on Wednesday before winding up.
It asked the government to compensate the duped depositors by appointing a special officer in cases where the commission has completed hearing. The special officer is to make an inventory and pay the compensation according to high court directives. The commission also asked the government to properly encourage small savings schemes so that the weaker sections in the society are not duped.
Justice Sen, a former chief justice of Allahabad high court and former chairman of Bengal human rights commission, was named by chief minister Mamata Banerjee to dispose the assets of Saradha Group and pay the duped depositors. It happened right the day after the arrest of Saradha chief Sudipta Sen in Kashmir on April 23, 2013. Mamata had promised to set up a corpus of Rs 500 crore to pay the duped depositors.
But in reality, the cash-starved exchequer gave the commission Rs 287 crore, out of which Rs 251 crore was to be paid as compensation. But out of it, cheques to the tune of Rs 102 crore were returned, as these could not be disbursed by the local government offices because in many cases the address did not match. So, the commission now has a kitty over Rs 140 crore, which includes Rs 2.39 crore that it collected from the debtors of Saradha.
Officials of the commission felt that there would be another extension for the commission which started functioning from April 24, 2013, and was given a year's extension in September 2013.
The status report mentioned how the commission faced difficulty in operating as there was lack of manpower and even the SIT did not properly cooperate. The district magistrates allegedly did not provide necessary data either and failed to distribute cheques on the pretext of election duty. There was faulty entry of the names of the depositors which created much problem in disbursing the cheques, the commission stated. Initially, Webel was doing the data entry job, but later a private party was doing the job and more errors were spotted. State officials plan to issue a notification to wind up.
The commission was entrusted with recovering the debts of Saradha and arrange payment of compensation to the depositors. Moreover, the commission was entrusted with attaching all the bank accounts of Saradha group. Later, the commission was entrusted with dealing with similar Ponzi funds and the commission was hearing cases related to 108 such funds other than Saradha. However, the commission faced problem as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) started attaching property of Saradha and plans to auction Saradha property was stalled.
The commission has managed to pay 4.98 lakh depositors till date. Though a PIL was filed in the high court on Wednesday, it was turned down as the state government had started the commission suo motu. However, the commission failed to pay all the duped depositors, and those cheated by non-Saradha Ponzi firms were not paid any compensation.
The commission officials are yet to open several thousand complaints of depositors of different chit funds, which are lying in the commission office at Council House Street in large bags. The commission officials plan to send the complaint bags and all untreated letters to Nabanna. Also, the commission had been occupying a floor at the financial hub at Rajarhat for which it did not pay Hidco.