Seeking to clear the air over Rs 570 crore cash seized by poll officials in Tamil Nadu, RBI on Wednesday told the Madras High Court that it was being transferred as part of regular money movement under currency management function.
The central bank told the court that it had accorded approval to the State Bank of India for the exercise.
The submission was made by the counsel for RBI during the hearing of a PIL by social activist Traffic Ramaswamy seeking a direction to the Election Commission to withhold the pronouncement of results of May 16 state assembly elections till the conclusion of a proper investigation with regard to seizure of the trucks containing Rs 570 crore.
The petitioner submitted that the trucks were seized on May 14 amid allegations that political parties, mainly AIADMK and DMK, were bribing voters and postponement of elections were ordered in two constituencies of Aravakurichi and Thanjavur in view of alleged distribution of money to voters there.
He alleged that though the State Bank of India has claimed the amount, rules laid down by RBI for transporation of currency notes were not followed which created doubt among the people about whether the money was meant for use during the elections.
When the matter came up before the vacation bench comprising Justice K Kalyanasundaram and Justice D Krishnakumar, counsel C Mohan, who appeared on behalf of Reserve Bank of India, submitted the PIL was filed without any research and was based on only presumptions and surmises.
He said the SBI branch in Coimbatore is one of the agents appointed for the transfer of cash from the Cash Chest and the RBI had already given its approval for transfer of the Rs 570 crores to SBI, Hyderabad.
The RBI counsel said the counting of cash was recorded on CCTV and the apex bank was informed that the three trucks were escorted by 18 Police personnel headed by a DSP rank officer.
Referring to various allegations, presumptions with regard to transfer of money, the counsel submitted that a few weeks ago HDFC transferred twice the seized amount from Coimbatore to Ahmedabad and it cannot be now argued that the money was transferred to the Prime Minister’s state.
Explaining the mode of transfer, the counsel submitted that how to transfer and who had to escort the money were all matters to be dealt with by SBI, which is the RBI authorised agent for the purpose.
He said the money has now been recounted and returned to SBI after clearance from Income Tax Department.
EC’s counsel Niranjan Rajagopalan said the prayer to withhold results cannot be accepted as under Article 329 B of the Constitution, once the election process starts, it cannot be interfered with by courts till the results have been declared.
The remedy was available by filing an election petition, he said.
The counting of votes polled in the May 16 elections is slated for Thursday.