Fearing that banks may be "misused" to bribe voters with cash during the forthcoming polls in five states, the Election Commission has asked the RBI to ensure that banking channels are not exploited for such purposes.
The EC has written to the Reserve Bank of India in the backdrop of a recent incident where the Income Tax department seized, from two vans, cash of about Rs 12.38 crore reportedly belonging to ICICI Bank after it was intercepted at Delhi's border with Ghaziabad (Uttar Pradesh).
During the same interception on January 9, another Rs 60 lakh cash claiming to be deposited in HDFC Bank, was seized by the tax department. The amounts, suspected not to be conforming to cash movement rules stipulated by RBI, are now under the scrutiny of the I-T department on the directions of the EC.
"...request you (RBI) to conduct a thorough enquiry of the case (seizure at Ghaziabad) and to ensure that the banking channel is not misused by the unscrupulous persons to carry cash to the constituency during election process, for the purpose of bribing the electors," a recent letter received by the RBI Deputy Governor in Mumbai from the poll body said.
Five states - Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Manipur, Goa and Uttarakhand - are going to Assembly polls in various phases, beginning January 28. The EC, in its January 12 letter, also reminded the RBI that it has earlier written to the banking regulator after it received similar complaints during the Assembly polls in Tamil Nadu.
It also cited the instance that occurred at Sahibabad in Ghaziabad on January 9 when the cash, being ferried by two private firms Brinks Arya and SIPL in their vans, was intercepted by surveillance teams and later seized by the I-T department.