Loan Fraud Case: SC Disposes of CBI’s Plea Against Interim Bail to Chanda Kochhar, Husband

The Supreme Court on Monday disposed of the CBI’s plea challenging last year’s Bombay High Court order granting interim bail to former ICICI Bank CEO and MD Chanda Kochhar and her businessman-husband Deepak Kochhar in the loan fraud case.

A bench of Justices Bela M Trivedi and Pankaj Mithal disposed of the petition after Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for the probe agency, said the high court has delivered its verdict last week in the main case but the judgement has not been uploaded yet.

On February 6, the Bombay High Court held as “illegal” the arrest of Chanda Kochhar and her husband by the CBI and confirmed its January 2023 interim order granting bail to the couple.

The apex court said it is disposing of the CBI’s plea but the either side will have the liberty to challenge the main verdict of the high court in accordance with law.

“We clarify that we have not expressed any opinion on the merits of the case,” the bench said.

The couple was arrested by the CBI on December 23, 2022 in the Videocon-ICICI Bank loan case.

They immediately moved the high court challenging their arrest and sought it to be declared as illegal. They also sought to be released on bail as an interim relief.

On January 9, 2023, the high court, in its interim order, granted them bail and came down hard on the CBI for making the arrest in a “casual and mechanical” manner without application of mind.

The CBI challenged the interim order before the apex court.

The federal probe agency contended that the high court proceeded on a wrong presumption that the offence was punishable with a maximum sentence of seven years without considering Section 409 of the IPC (criminal breach of trust by public servant), which entails a sentence that could range from 10 years to life imprisonment.

The top court had asked the CBI how section 409 of the IPC came into play when ICICI was a private bank. The agency had submitted that the bank may be private but the matter involved 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 the Kochhars.

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The CBI has alleged that private sector lender ICICI Bank had sanctioned a credit of Rs 3,250 crore to the Videocon Group companies promoted by Venugopal 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 had 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.

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