SC questions CBI over not objecting to repeated extension of interim bail to Chanda Kochhar, husband

The Supreme Court on Tuesday questioned the CBI over not objecting to repeated extension of the two-week interim bail granted in January this year to former ICICI Bank CEO-cum-MD Chanda Kochhar and her businessman husband Deepak Kochhar in a loan fraud case.

A bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi asked Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for the CBI, as to why the probe agency did not resist repeated extension of interim bail granted to them by the Bombay High Court on January 9.

“This order is of January 9 and interim bail was granted for only two weeks. Why have you not resisted? Why are you permitting it to continue for such a long period? According to us, this plea has become infructuous because the impugned order was for only two weeks. You should have moved an objection there (high court),” the bench said.

Justice Trivedi asked Raju about the next date of hearing in the high court. The lawyer told the judge no fresh date has been announced yet.

“You should have moved the high court,” Justice Trivedi said, following which Raju told him he will request his counterpart in Bombay to approach the high court.

The bench posted the CBI’s plea challenging the January 9 order of the high court for October 16, and asked Raju to seek instruction on what needs to be done.

On January 9, the high court had pulled up the CBI for arresting the couple in a “casual and mechanical” manner and “clearly without application of mind” in the loan fraud case and granted them interim bail.

The CBI arrested the Kochhars on December 23, 2022 in connection with the Videocon-ICICI Bank loan fraud case.

The couple had moved the HC challenging their arrest, terming it as “illegal and arbitrary”. They had sought their release from jail on bail by way of an interim order.

The high court had said the Kochhars’ arrest was not in accordance with the provisions of law and they were entitled to be released on bail, pending the hearing and final disposal of their petitions.

The grounds for arresting the petitioners (Kochhars’), as stated in the arrest memos, are unacceptable and contrary to the reason(s)/ ground(s) on which a person can be arrested, it had said.

Apart from the Kochhars, the CBI has also arrested Videocon group founder Venugopal Dhoot in the case.

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The central agency has alleged that ICICI Bank had sanctioned credit facilities to the tune of Rs 3,250 crore to the companies of the Videocon group in violation of the Banking Regulation Act, Reserve Bank of India’s guidelines and credit policy of the top private lender.

The CBI had named Chanda Kochhar, who was ICICI Bank CEO and MD from 2009 to 2018, Deepak Kochhar, Dhoot along with a slew of firms – Nupower Renewables (NRL), Supreme Energy, Videocon International Electronics Ltd and Videocon Industries – as accused in the FIR registered under Indian Penal Code sections related to criminal conspiracy and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA).

Nupower Renewables is managed by Deepak Kochhar.

The central agency has alleged as a part of quid pro quo (favour or advantage granted in return for something), Videocon group founder 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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