Mumbai, Feb 6 (IANS) The Bombay High Court on Tuesday termed the arrests of ex-ICICI Bank CEO and MD Chanda Kochhar and her businessman husband Deepak Kochhar as “illegal” and confirmed the 2023 interim bail order.
The Kochhar couple was arrested in the ICICI Bank-Videocon loan fraud case, and in January 2023, a bench of Justice Revati Mohite-Dere had granted them interim bail order.
A division bench of Justices Anuja Prabhudesai and Nitin R. Borkar confirmed the January 2023 interim bail order on Tuesday, after they completed the hearing last month and reserved the verdict.
Last year Justice Mohite-Dere had questioned the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) why the investigation into the case took so long while the FIR was lodged in 2019, while granting the interim bail to the Kochhars who were arrested on December 23, 2022, pending their plea.
The court held in its interim order that the Kochhar’s arrests were not in accordance with the relevant laws, and the reason to arrest them four years after the probe was launched was “not spelt out” in the arrest summons.
At that time, Chanda Kochhar’s lawyer, senior advocate Amit Desai had informed the court that his client had fully cooperated with the CBI but no investigations took place for over three years till the first half of 2022, and that her arrest was illegal and violated provisions of the CrPC.
He also argued that no woman police officer was present at the time of Chanda Kochhar’s arrest, while her husband was an independent businessman and she had not shared any details pertaining to the bank with him.
CBI lawyer Kuldeep Patil argued that the interim bail order only considered the arrest memos but not the case diaries and remand applications that proved the Kochhars were not cooperating with the probe agency.
The CBI had challenged the interim bail order in the Supreme Court which directed the agency to argue the matter before the Bombay HC.
In January 2018, the CBI launched its probe against the Kochhars following an expose that Videocon Group’s chief Venugopal Dhoot had allegedly diverted loan amounts he got from the ICICI Bank in 2012 to a company he had formed with Deepak Kochhar and others.
The alleged irregularities pertained to granting six high-value loans worth around Rs 1,575 crore to five Videocon Group companies between June 2009-October 2011, reportedly flouting the rules and policy of the bank’s sanctioning committee.
Later, the loans became NPAs and resulted in a huge loss of over Rs 1,730 crore to the ICICI Bank by April 2012.