Mumbai: In a significant decision, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday held that the arrest of former Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Of ICICI Bank Chanda Kochhar and her husband Deepak by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the Videocon loan fraud case was illegal.
A division bench of Justices Anuja Prabhudessai and NR Borkar passed the verdict confirming the interim bail granted to the couple on January 9, 2023, within two weeks of their arrest by the CBI.
The CBI arrested the Kochhars on December 24, 2022, on allegations of cheating and irregularities in a loan of Rs3,250 crore granted in 2012 to the Videocon Group.
Details On The CBI Case
The central agency’s case is that when Kochhar was at the helm of affairs at ICICI Bank, she cleared a loan for Videocon Group of Companies. As a quid pro quo, her husband's company Nu Renewable allegedly received investment from Videocon. The loan later turned into a non-performing asset (NPA) and was termed as bank fraud.
The CBI was initially granted custody and on December 29, 2022, Kochhars were sent to judicial custody. They then approached the HC seeking quashing of the case and declaring their arrest illegal and release from detention.
The HC, on January 9 last year, directed their interim release from judicial custody. The court also held that their arrest was in violation of Section 41A of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) which mandates sending notice for appearance before the concerned police officer. Under Section 41A, the police need to first issue a notice to the accused person directing him or her to appear to give a statement, after which, if the police deem it fit, then the arrest should be made.
Kochhar's Lawyer Contended On Arrest Being Illegal
During the hearing, their counsel Amit Desai argued that they are not insisting that the court quash the FIR. Also, he said they have filed another petition challenging the sanction granted by ICICI Bank to prosecute Chanda Kochhar. He, however, argued that their arrest was illegal and it violated the mandated procedures under the CrPC.
He also cited the interim order of January 9, 2023 which noted that the identical arrest memos of the Kochhars did not record any specific grounds for arrest as mandated under Section 41 (notice to be issued before arrest) of CrPC.
CBI advocate Kuldeep Patil argued that the interim order only considered the arrest memo and referred neither to the case diary nor the remand application. He also stated that even the chargesheet against Chanda Kochhar contained evidence of non-co-operation.
Patil also rebutted Desai's contention that Chanda Kochhar had not been arrested by a female officer. He argued that male police officers are not barred from arresting females as long as there is no physical contact. He emphasised that a female officer was present when the arrest was made.