In January 2005, Ruchi Das resigned from her stint as a newspaper journalist to join an online media company.
Her provident fund (PF) balance was worth Rs 38,500, and she wanted to transfer this amount to her new employer's PF account, since a withdrawal before five years would be taxed.
In January 2007, Ruchi applied to her current employer for the transfer of PF balance. In December 2007, Ruchi, still has no clue about the status of her transfer.
When she made an inquiry, she discovered that her former employer had issued a cheque for Rs 38,500 in May 2007 in favour of the Recognised Provident Fund Commissioner (Delhi) with whom her current employer maintains the PF account. But the money was not credited into her account.
According to social activist Shailesh Gandhi, who perseveres in his fight with government agencies for the right of information, cases of pending provident fund are not uncommon.
If you are in the same boat as Ruchi, the Right to Information Act is a good bet, to help you find out the status of your dues (PF, tax refunds or old age pensions) from the Government.
The waiting period for tax refunds is usually one year from the time of filing your returns.
Plan of action for Ruchi
Shailesh outlines these steps to help Ruchi get the information she needs (for a draft format, turn to page 4 ):
Central Government bodies have not prescribed a format for requesting information. But the State of Maharashtra has. You could use a similar format, because it is clear and concise.
2. Language of communication
Write your application in Hindi, English or the local language.
3. To whom
Address the application to the public information officer (PIO) of the organisation. In Ruchi's case, it is the Recognised PF Commissioner of Delhi. Do not forget to affix an Indian postal order stamp of a Rs 10 denomination, on your application.
4. Documents and records
Attach a photocopy of proofs like your transfer form or tax return copy to your application. If you don't have a copy of the transfer form, make sure you get your PF account numbers. Sign the RTI application and maintain a copy.
Keep your language usage, simple. For instance, Ruchi could quote her PF number and other relevant details and frame it like this: What is the status of my PF transfer?
When framing questions, Shailesh suggests that you don't ask 'Why has there been a delay?'. Instead, focus on "What is the status?"
Questions that use words like 'what' and 'where' have a definite answer unlike the question 'why', because the person in charge may not know be able to trace the exact reason for the delay.
The PIO of the concerned office -- in this case, the PF office in Delhi -- will have to provide information within 30 days of receiving the application.
If you don't get a response within the time-frame, a first appeal can be made to the first appellate (an officer who is a rank senior to the PIO). He is bound to give you a response within 30 days.
Despite this, if the information is not provided or is refused, approach the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC). The CIC is an autonomous body that inquires into citizen complaints. If the PIO has no justifiable reason for not providing the information or if he provides incorrect information, the act penalises him with an amount of Rs 250 per day.
According to Shailesh, in the case of PF transfers and tax refunds, the chances of a refusal are very, very low. Narayan Varma, a senior chartered accountant agrees.
He says, "I used RTI to get my tax refund. In my case, the dues were credited within 30 days. I mentioned my telephone number in the RTI application. The assessing officer called me to say he would act, immediately."
According to Varma, he has personally helped in approximately 50 cases of tax refunds. Of these, more than 95 per cent, have been successful.
The Public Information Officer
Recognised Provident Fund Commissioner
No 18 Chamiers Road
Subject: Pending provident fund transfer
Description of the information required: I applied for transfer of my PF from account number xxx with company abc to account number yyy in company pqr.
Company abc tells me that the amount has been paid to you vide cheque number 12345 dated 5th May 2007. However, the transfer has not been effected into my account number yyy.
I want the following information:
a. What is the progress of the file?
b. Which officer dealt with this file and with whom is the file pending?
Note: In case you are awaiting a tax refund, address the 'The Assessing Officer/ Joint Commissioner of Income Tax' (who is the appellate authority).
Disclaimer: While efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided in the content, the web site or the author shall not be held responsible for any loss caused to any person whatsoever who accesses or uses or is supplied with the content (consisting of articles and information).