NEW DELHI, Dec 12: The Supreme Court on Tuesday deferred until January 3 next year the hearing on the Central Bureau of Investigations’ (CBI) plea challenging the Bombay High Court order granting bail to former ICICI Bank CEO and MD Chanda Kochhar and her husband Deepak Kochhar in a loan fraud case.
A bench comprising Justices Bela M Trivedi and Satish Chandra Sharma took note of the submissions of senior advocate Amit Desai, appearing for the Kochhars, that he would like to appear physically before it to argue the case.
Desai, who was appearing virtually from Mumbai, said there were some connectivity issues, and sought an adjournment.
Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, who represented the CBI, opposed Desai’s plea for adjournment, saying the hearing be held on Wednesday and not adjourned for a long period. The bench then fixed it for hearing on January 3 next year.
The bench had on October 16 sought a response from the Kochhars on the CBI’s petition challenging the interim bail granted to them in the case by the Bombay High Court.
ASG Raju had said the high court proceeded on a wrong presumption that the offence is punishable with a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment without considering section 409 of the Indian Penal Code (criminal breach of trust by public servant), which entails a sentence from 10 years to life imprisonment.
The bench had asked Raju as to how section 409 (criminal breach of trust by a public servant) of the IPC came into play when it was a private bank. The law officer had replied that the bank may be private but the matter involves public money.
Later, the top court had pulled up the probe agency for not objecting to repeated extension of the two-week interim bail granted to Chanda Kochhar and her husband.
The Bombay High Court had on January 9 this year granted bail to the couple, saying their arrest was not in accordance with the provisions of law. The CBI appealed against it in the top court.
A day after bail was granted, Chanda Kochhar walked out of the Byculla women’s prison in Mumbai, while her husband was released from the Arthur Road jail.
The high court had held that the arrest of the Kochhars was in violation of Section 41A of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which mandates sending notice for appearance before the police officer concerned.
The couple was arrested by the CBI on December 23, 2022 in connection with the Videocon-ICICI Bank loan case.
Apart from the Kochhars, the CBI also arrested Videocon group founder Venugopal Dhoot in the case.
“According to the facts, the petitioners’ (Kochhars) arrest was not done in accordance with the provisions of law. There has been non-compliance of section 41(A) thus warranting their release,” the high court had said.
The HC had ordered the duo to cooperate with the probe and present themselves before the CBI as and when summoned.
It had also asked the Kochhars to surrender their passports to the CBI.
The CBI has alleged that private sector lender ICICI Bank had sanctioned credit to the tune of Rs 3,250 crore to the Videocon Group companies promoted by Dhoot in violation of the Banking Regulation Act, Reserve Bank of India’s guidelines, and the credit policy of the bank.
The CBI had named Chanda Kochhar, Deepak Kochhar and Dhoot along with Nupower Renewables (NRL) managed by Deepak Kochhar, Supreme Energy, Videocon International Electronics Ltd and Videocon Industries Ltd as accused in the FIR registered in 2019 under IPC sections related to criminal conspiracy and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
It also alleged that as part of a quid pro quo, Dhoot made an investment of Rs 64 crore in Nupower Renewables through Supreme Energy Pvt Ltd (SEPL), and transferred SEPL to Pinnacle Energy Trust managed by Deepak Kochhar through a circuitous route between 2010 and 2012. (PTI)