Sahara India has been slapped with a fine of Rs. 50,000 by the apex consumer commission for failing to put in place a proper accounting system to keep track of the money invested by people in one of its schemes.
"It is indeed a sad state of affairs where the petitioner was taking money for the scheme launched by them (Sahara) for the benefit of the customers and they failed to put in place a proper accounting system to support this scheme," the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) said.
The NCDRC passed the order while pulling up Sahara for not updating its accounts regarding the repayment of a loan availed by one of their investors against the investment he had made in the scheme.
According to Jatakishore Das, he had invested Rs. one lakh in Sahara's Swarna Yojana Scheme and availed a loan of Rs. 80,000.
Das, who resides in Odisha's Deogarh district, claimed that he had repaid the loan with interest and it was endorsed in his passbook-cum-certificate by then branch/scheme manager of Sahara India's Deogarh branch.
On the other hand, Sahara contended that the loan availed by Das was outstanding as its alleged repayment was not shown in the company's ledgers.
The petitioner's claim, however, was upheld by the district forum and the Odisha State Commission in their orders against which Sahara India had moved NCDRC.
The NCDRC bench presided justice VB Gupta, while slapping the fine of Rs. 50,000 on Sahara, found "no jurisdictional error, illegality or infirmity" in the state commission's order and dismissed the company's plea.
The bench observed that if the company had indeed been keeping their accounts accurate, "they would not need to plead ignorance of entries regarding respondent's (Das) loan in the passbook-cum-certificate due to lack of corresponding entry in the ledger book of the petitioner."
It directed Sahara to pay half of the fine amount to Das and deposit the remaining in the consumer welfare fund.
The NCDRC also observed that Sahara tried to cover up their lapses by "behaving in a most irresponsible manner and trying to pass on the blame to the respondent for not having produced a receipt to validate the entry in the passbook-cum- certificate."
It also noted that Sahara failed to order an enquiry into the actions of their official for failing to record the exact amount of loan, repayment of the same, updating of records and following a system for ensuring accountability and transparency with regard to amounts collected from the public.