The State Bank of India (SBI) has said that the Rs 570 crore detained by the Election Commission of India (ECI) on the basis of suspicion has been released by the authorities now. The announcement comes at a time whenMadras High Court is expected to issue an order on the issue today evening.
The Court is also expected to issue an order related to holding the counting of votes on a single day, May 25. Voting in two constituencies has been postponed to May 23, with counting on May 25, while the results for the rest of the 232 constituencies are scheduled to come out on May 19.
In a statement issued today, SBI said: “Reference the recent incident involving the mistaken seizure of Rs 570 crore that was being transported from the currency chest of State Bank Of India’s Coimbatore main branch to SBI Special Currency Administration Branch, Visakhapatnam, SBI would like to confirm that the same has been duly released by the police and tax authorities after all verifications were made.”
Both, the Police escort team and the representative from SBI had presented all the necessary ID and documents whenever demanded by the Static Surveillance Team (SST) of the ECI during the entire process of verification.
Upon requests by the Reserve Bank and SBI, various authorities of the Election Commission, including the local and central observers, District Administration and Income Tax thoroughly examined all aspects as per due process of law and released the treasure after satisfying themselves about the genuineness of the transaction.
“SBI would like to place on record, our deep appreciation and thank all the government agencies for quickly resolving the issue to the satisfaction of everybody,” SBI added.
Meanwhile, in a litigation related to the detention of the said amount, the Reserve Bank of India has claimed in Madras High Court today that the money belongs to the banking regulator and is being handled by the SBI with its permission.
According to experts, the currency chest, which carries currency for distribution among banks for their operations, holds the money of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the management of each chest is with different banks. The banks, upon approval from the RBI, would withdraw the money from one chest and transport it to another chest based on requirement. According to the RBI website, there are around 275 currency chests in Tamil Nadu, 226 in Andhra Pradesh and 155 in Telangana.
On May 14, SST intercepted three Innova cars and three containers carrying cash at Chengapalli, in Uthukuli Taluk, in Tirupur district on suspicion that the money could be transported to distribute to voters for favourable votes.
However, SBI promptly came out owning the money and said that the money has been in transit from SBI Coimbatore Main branch to SBI Special Currency Administration Branch, Visakhapatnam, in order to address a temporary cash shortage in the state of Andhra Pradesh. SBI said that as there is a temporary cash shortage in the currency chests across AP, to meet the needs of the public, a specific remittance was authorised by the RBI (both at Hyderabad and Chennai in accordance with their Cash Management Policy).
Experts from the banking industry have raised doubts over the way such a huge amount was being transported, especially in light of the available information. The containers with the money were kept at the district administration office in Tiruppur for almost two days, after which it was transported back to Coimbatore where further investigation took place.