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Penalty on ‘silent’ accounts

New Delhi, Oct. 23: Post office savings accounts holders will soon have to shell out Rs 20 from their account if they have not made any deposits or withdrawals in the last three years.

More than 18 lakh — out of the six crore — account holders under the scheme are in danger of having to fork out this charge levied on what have been categorised as “silent accounts” — those that have witnessed no transactions over the past three years.

According to a finance ministry notification, “From 2002-03, an annual service charge of Rs 20 shall be deducted from the balance in a silent account on the last working day of each financial year. Those investors who have not operated their post office saving account since April 1, 2000, may note that the same will become a silent account by the end of March 31, 2003, unless it is operated before that day and it will be liable for levy of service charge.”

After deduction of service charges if the balance amount becomes nil, the accounts will be automatically closed. Those accounts that have become silent prior to 2002-03 will not attract any service charge, it said.

The move is the first step by the postal department to levy penal transaction charges. Until now, only banks used to give such directives to those who did not service their accounts for a number of years.

A postal department official said: “We are just following the instructions of the finance ministry under which the National Savings Organisation operates.”

However, the official said, unlike banks, there is no provision to close the account immediately and forfeit the amount. “We have made necessary arrangements to maintain a separate account and also to service them as and when the account holder approaches us. The accounts that maintain a balance of Rs 50 will not be touched, but will be closed if it falls below that,” said a senior official in the department of post.

The silent account holders can reactivate their accounts before March 31, 2003 so as to avoid the service charge. A silent account can be reactivated only on a written request and on a deposit of an amount that raises the balance to the stipulated minimum balance for the account not having cheque facility, the notification added.

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