The dividend payments announced by the companies for their investors are required to be paid within 30 days of their declaration and any unpaid or unclaimed amount needs to be transferred to an 'unclaimed dividend account' within the next seven days.
Any dividend amount lying unclaimed in this account for a period of seven years subsequently gets transferred to the Investor Education and Protection Fund (IEPF).
An analysis of the annual reports of the country's 50 top blue-chip companies shows that the cumulative amount of unclaimed dividend payments in such accounts of 35 companies itself was about Rs 530 crore at the end of last fiscal. The remaining 15 companies did not specifically mention the exact quantum of such unclaimed dividends.
Individually, RIL had total unclaimed/unpaid dividends worth Rs 129 crore as on March 31, 2012, which other companies with a substantial amount in such accounts included ITC (Rs 80.76 crore), HUL (Rs 53.07 crore), Tata Steel (Rs 45.81 crore) and Hero MotoCorp (Rs 43.09 crore) at the end of their respective last financial years.
Companies like L&T (Rs 19.52 crore), Ambuja Cement (Rs 17.98 crore), Tata Motors (Rs 15.83 crore), Cipla (Rs 13.59 crore), NTPC (Rs 11.48 crore), SAIL (Rs 11.29 crore), Nestle (Rs 10.2 crore) and HDFC (around Rs 10 crore) also had sizeable money lying with them in form unclaimed dividends.
The companies declare their annual dividends at their AGMs (Annual General Meetings) and are required to pay the same to the investors within 30 days thereafter.
Other companies with uncashed dividends included IT giant TCS, IOC, Power Grid, Asian Paints, Sterlite Industries, Sun Pharma, GAIL, DLF, NHPC, BPCL, HCL Technologies, Dr Reddy's, Wipro, BHEL Infosys and Bharti Airtel.
Irrespective of the reason for not dividends remaining unclaimed, any money transferred to the unpaid dividend account of a company and remaining unpaid or unclaimed for a period of 7 years is transferred to the Investor Education and Protection Fund (IEPF).
Subsequently, no such claims are entertained against the company or the IEPF for any money transferred to the fund in accordance with the relevant provisions.
The companies on their behalf regularly send reminders to the concerned shareholders requesting them to claim their dividend before it is due for transfer to the IEPF.
In order to reduce the quantum of unclaimed dividends, companies like HDFC had contacted shareholders whose aggregate unclaimed dividend amounted to Rs 50,000 or more through its branches. It also provides direct credit of unclaimed dividend to the shareholders having a bank account with HDFC Bank.