The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice in a plea seeking that information on money lying in dormant accounts be made available on a centralised database so that legal heirs can claim the same. (Sucheta Dalal v. Union of India and ors).A Bench of Justices S Abdul Nazeer and JK Maheshwari sought responses from the Union Ministries of Finance and Corporate Affairs, as well as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Securities and Exchanges Board of India (SEBI) after noting that the public interest litigation (PIL) raised important questions. The plea has been filed by veteran financial journalist Sucheta Dalal, through advocate Prashant Bhushan. It was drawn by advocate Rashmi Singh. .The PIL seeks a direction to ensure that unclaimed funds of the public in investments or deposits are made available to the concerned legal heirs/nominees on a centralised online database.These funds are otherwise transferred and get stuck in government-owned funds like the the Depositor’s Education and Awareness Fund (DEAF), Investor’s Education and the Protection Fund (IEPF) and Senior Citizen’s Welfare Fund (SCWF), the plea states.As of March 2021, these funds have have crossed ₹40,000 crore, the plea points out, and claimants should be allowed to access the same by providing necessary information of holders of the concerned accounts..The plea identifies the following reasons for the reason for the funds staying unclaimed/not transferred:Funds in DEAF often remain unclaimed because the legal heirs and/or nominees of the deceased bank account holders are unaware of the very existence of the bank accounts of the deceased, and in turn the banks fail to track down and inform them. The RBI has failed to issue directions to mitigate this.The IEPF website is full of technical glitches, not easily searchable and there is no attempt on the part of the government to trace the rightful owners.There is, thus, an urgent need for the RBI to develop a centralised online database providing information about deceased account-holders and to be kept informed by banks of the same."...the need for a centralized database providing information of deceased accountholders 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 death of an individual.".A hassle-free process that does not involve insisting on court documents is needed for such claims, the plea submits, to 'avoid inconvenience and undue hardship' for common people.Banks and other financial institutions should not insist on litigation documents when there is a clear will or when the legal heirs have given an indemnity about the undisputed amount in the bank by publishing it in newspapers, the plea argues."...a majority of banks, both public and private, as well as Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) and Depositories such as National Securities Depository Limited (NSDL) and Central Depository Services Limited (CDSL) insist on legal documents such as a succession certificate, probate etc that require the legal heirs to approach the court. The court proceedings that ensue as a result thereof are both cumbersome and unnecessary."The plea accordingly also prays for writs of mandamus to be issued directing the respondents:to establish a procedure for dealing with claims of legal heirs qua bank deposits, insurance, post office funds etc., that eliminates unnecessary litigation.to identify and penalise banks that are not complying with aforementioned circulars issued by Respondent No.2 [RBI] qua unclaimed deposits as well as settlement of claims..Sucheta Dalal as a journalist had exposed the Harshad Mehta scam in 1992 while with The Times of India, and was conferred a Padma Shri for journalism in 2006. She is the currently the Managing Editor of Moneylife magazine and has been a member of the Investor Education & Protection Fund (IEPF) of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs for six years.