MUMBAI: This is one problem numerous MTNL subscribers have faced at some point of time. Even after surrendering their phones, they have had to wait for months and years together to get the refund of their deposit. Moreover, the department never bothered to send the interest accrued on the deposit to its subscribers.

Now, the Right to Information Act (RTI) has come to the rescue after one such harassed subscriber used the act to get his interest accrued on the refund within 20 days of filing the RTI query.

Kishore Chitalia, a Santacruz resident, was using MTNL’s Garuda mobile phone till April last year. After he surrendered the phone, he applied for the refund.

"In spite of following it up with various MTNL authorities, right up to the general manager level, and sending e-mails, there was no response from them for months together," said Chitalia.

He added that whenever he spoke to an officer in one department, he was asked to speak to another person in yet another department. "I must have made at least 50 calls, but I always got an answer that the matter is under process," he said.

Ultimately, in January this year, Chitalia received the deposit refund cheque of Rs 3,000, but he realised that they had not paid any interest for keeping his amount in their kitty for nine months.

"I was furious and asked them how they could be so callous, especially when they penalise the subscriber if he is late in paying his bills even for a day. But they had no answer," said Chitalia, a chartered accountant.

A few weeks later, he happened to attend an RTI seminar organised by the Institute of Chartered Accountancy. "After attending this seminar, I got the idea to file an RTI query on the issue," he said.

In his query, he asked about the stipulated time in which the refunds have to be paid and what is the interest that is to be paid in case of delay. But instead of getting a reply from MTNL, he got a cheque for the accrued interest.

"Later I got a reply from MTNL that the stipulated time period is two months and if there is a delay, the deposit attracts an interest of 10%," he said.

But the second part of Chitalia’s query on how many such cases are pending has been stonewalled as MTNL has used the third party clause to deny the information under the act.

"The department is holding back the interest capital of thousands of subscribers and the public has the right to know," he said. Chitalia is now planning to go for an appeal against this order.

CA uses info Act to cut MTNL line-Mumbai-Cities-The Times of India