A day after the CBI named banking doyen KV Kamath and virtual who’s who of the sector for questioning in the alleged fraud case against former ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar, union minister Arun Jaitley Friday advised investigating agency to avoid “adventurism” and concentrate only on the bull’s eye.
Jaitley, who is recuperating after a surgery in a hospital in the US, in a Facebook blog said one of the reasons for “poor” conviction rate in India is that “adventurism and megalomania” overtakes investigators and professionalism takes a back seat.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday registered a case against former ICICI CEO and MD Chanda Kochhar, her husband Deepak Kochhar and Videocon Group chairman Venugopal Dhoot in connection with a Rs 3,250 crore loan case.
The agency also said Kamath as well as present ICICI Bank CEO Sandeep Bakshi, Goldman Sachs India Chairman Sonjoy Chatterjee, Standard Chartered Bank CEO Zarin Daruwala, Tata Capital head Rajiv Sabharwal and Tata Capital senior advisor Homi Khusrokhan need to be investigated for high-value loans ICICI Bank sanctioned under Chanda Kochhar to Videocon Industries.
“There is a fundamental difference between investigative adventurism and professional investigation,” Jaitley wrote.
“Sitting thousands of kilometres away, when I read the list of potential targets in the ICICI case, the thought that crossed my mind was again the same – Instead of focusing primarily on the target, is a journey to nowhere (or everywhere) being undertaken? If we include the entire who’s who of the banking industry – with or without evidence – what cause are we serving or actually hurting,” he wrote.
Jaitley further advised the investigators – “Follow the advice of Arjun in the Mahabharat – Just concentrate on the bull’s eye.”
Investigative adventurism, he said, involves casting the net too wide including people with no ”mens rea” or even having a common intention to commit an offence, relying on presumptions and surmises with no legally admissible evidence.
“Adventurism leads to media leaks, ruins reputations and eventually invites strictures and not convictions. In the process, the targets are ruined because of harassment, loss of reputation and financial costs. It costs people their career,” he wrote.
“Professional investigation targets the real accused on the basis of actual and admissible evidences. It rules out fanciful presumptions. There is no personal malice or corruption. It targets the guilty and protects the innocent. It secures convictions and furthers public interest,” Jaitley said.
One of the reasons why conviction rates in India are poor is that “adventurism and megalomania overtakes our investigators and professionalism takes a back seat,” he wrote.
It is alleged that the accused sanctioned certain loans to private companies in a criminal conspiracy with other accused to cheat the ICICI Bank.
The CBI on Thursday also conducted raids at four locations in Mumbai, and Aurangabad in Maharashtra. Searches were carried out at Videocon’s Mumbai office as well.
Chanda Kochhar stepped down in October last year after she was accused of conflicts of interest, lack of disclosures and quid pro quo while extending loans to the now-bankrupt Videocon Industries.
The probe agency had registered a preliminary enquiry against her husband Deepak Kochhar, Videocon Group officials and others for its probe to determine any wrongdoing or otherwise in the sanction of the loan to the Videocon Group by the ICICI Bank as part of a consortium of banks in 2012.
It is alleged that Venugopal Dhoot had given a loan of Rs 64 crore to NuPower Renewables, a company founded by Kochhar’s husband Deepak Kochhar, six months after his group got the Rs 3,250 crore loan.
The CBI had said the money was part of a loan of Rs 40,000 crore which Videocon received from a consortium of 20 banks led by the State Bank of India.
The expose was based on a complaint filed by a whistleblower, who flagged Kochhar’s alleged impropriety and conflict of interest in a letter to the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister.
(With agency inputs)