The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has opposed Videocon founder Venugopal Dhoot’s plea saying that there has been a systematic attempt by Dhoot and the Kochhars (former ICICI CEO and MD Chanda Kochhar and her husband Deepak Kochhar) to avoid the probe.
Dhoot was arrested by the CBI on December 26, 2022 in connection with the alleged ICICI-Videocon quid pro quo loan fraud case. At present he is in judicial custody. Kochhars were arrested on December 24. They were released on interim bail for two weeks by the HC on January 9 observing that their arrest was not in accordance with law.
Dhoot sought quashing of FIR against him
Dhoot filed plea in the HC seeking quashing of the FIR against him contending that his arrest was unwarranted as he had co-operated in the probe. He has also sought to be released on bail.
A division bench of Justices Revati Mohite-Dere and Prithviraj Chavan on Friday reserved the plea for orders.
Sandeep Laddha, Dhoot’s advocate, argued that he appeared before the CBI 31 times since the preliminary enquiry (PE) was registered in December 2017 and FIR lodged in January 2019. Also, he was never arrested in the case. After the chargesheet was filed, he appeared before the court concerned which granted him bail noting that he had been co-operating with the probe.
Even in December 2022, Dhoot appeared before the CBI on two occasions. However, he could not appear on December 23 and 25 as he was already summoned by the Enforcement Directorate in their money laundering probe.
“The CBI is holding this non-appearance for two days as non-co-operation. On December 25, the CBI had issued Dhoot a notice under section 41 of CrPC. He appeared on December 26 when he was arrested,” said Laddha.
Systematic attempt by Dhoot and Kochhars to avoid the probe: CBI
CBI's counsel Raja Thakare opposed these arguments saying that Dhoot was summoned since December 2022 to confront him with co-accused – Kochhars. “There has been a systematic attempt by Dhoot and the Kochhars to avoid the probe. It is a case of conspiracy. When they are outside (not arrested) they decide the precise answers to give. But the moment one person is arrested, the blame game starts and they start pointing fingers at each other,” said Thakare.
He pointed out that Dhoot avoided summons when Kochhars were in custody “The CBI at the time had Kochhars in custody for a brief time and hence wanted to confront them with Dhoot for questioning,” he added.
On a court query, Thakare said that when the trio were in custody, they were confronted and questioned together for two days - on December 26 and 27.
Laddha refuted the claim saying that Dhoot was never made to sit with the Kochhars and questioned after his arrest.
Delay in arrest doesn't make it illegal or unwarranted: CBI
The CBI counsel added that just because there has been a delay in arresting the accused does not make the same illegal or unwarranted. “These cases are of high magnitude with high value transactions woven in layers of companies which are difficult to probe. A meticulous study is required,” he added. If a person is hurriedly arrested then the clock starts ticking for the Investigating agency to conduct the investigation within the time period of filing chargesheet.
Dhoot has contended that his arrest is “arbitrary, illegal, done without following due procedure of law and in gross violation of section 41 (A) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which mandates for a notice to be issued to accused to join the probe and to make an arrest only if absolutely necessary".
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