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Cash seizure with poll link

Darjeeling, April 7: A Kalimpong youth was arrested for carrying Rs 2.31 lakh without proper documents as part of the Election Commission’s crackdown on illegal payments to ensure free and fair polls.

Sources said every bank transaction was under the scrutiny of the Election Commission to control the flow of illicit money to the parties, although it was not known if Jiten Bhutia’s arrest was prompted by such a vigil.

Bhutia, a 34-year-old resident of Pedong in Kalimpong, was travelling to Darjeeling when he was intercepted by the MCC (Model Code of Conduct) flying squad and police on N.C. Goenka Road here this morning and a sum of Rs 2.31 lakh was seized from his bag.

A senior police officer in Darjeeling said Bhutia had been arrested as his answer was “unsatisfactory”.

“When we asked him why he was carrying so much money, his answer was unsatisfactory. We arrested him and booked him under Section 171H and Section 188 of the IPC. It is advisable that if people carry more than Rs 50,000, they should be able to explain the purpose,” said the officer.

While Section 171H pertains to illegal payments in connection with an election, Section 188 deals with disobedience to order duly promulgated by a public servant.

The police officer could not immediately confirm whether Bhutia, a businessman, was associated with any political party and the amount was meant for the elections.

Pankaj Prasad, assistant public prosecutor, said Bhutia was granted bail on a bond of Rs 1,000 by the court of the chief judicial magistrate as the sections were bailable. “None can carry more than Rs 50,000 without proper documents when the model code of conduct is in force. The fate of the seized amount will be known tomorrow as the court has sought a report,” he said.

Banks have said they have been closely monitoring all accounts ever since the model code of conduct came into force. “We are looking at all suspicious transactions irrespective of the amount, though we are concentrating on transactions above Rs 1 lakh and the same is being reported to the district magistrate’s office every evening,” said a bank official.