The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice to the Centre on a writ petition for a direction seeking the constitution of an expert committee of SEBI, RBI, Finance Ministry, Enforcement Directorate and Serious Fraud Investigation Office officials to devise a long-term plan to end all the unauthorised and illegal deposit schemes, collective investment schemes by financial institutions across the country.

A Bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justices Ranjana Desai and Ranjan Gogoi issued a notice on the petition filed by Humanity, Salt Lake, Kolkata, which also wanted prosecution of all violators and recovery of money for the depositors/investors.

The petitioner said: “The menace of Ponzi schemes has shaken the very foundation of rural and semi-urban economy in India. The problem of innocent poor people being robbed of their last savings by greedy, well-organised outfits has remained a fact of life in other parts of country as well. Recently, big frauds like the Sahara scam, Saradha chit fund scam, etc. have come to light, but they are only the tip of the iceberg. The problem of unscrupulous companies collecting deposits from crores of poor people, in violation of guidelines issued by the RBI and the SEBI, has reached menacing proportions and no effective action is being taken.”

It said: “All these companies which are in the business of misappropriating the savings of the marginal saver are in breach of the Company Deposit Rules 1975, which prohibits all companies [except PSUs] from accepting deposits which are unsecured instruments [debentures or otherwise] for more than 10 per cent of their net worth.”

Therefore, the petitioner said, an expert committee should be constituted to devise a long-term plan to end all the unauthorised and illegal deposit schemes and to recover the amounts collected.