Bombay High Court on Friday reserved the order for next Monday on the pleas of Chanda and Deepak Kochhar challenging their arrest and seeking an interim release.
The court was hearing the plea of Kochhar’s challenging their arrest. Appearing for Chanda Kochhar, advocate Amit Desai argued that Chanda had voluntarily sent an email to CBI saying that she is willing to come and explain everything on November 1 last year. She didn’t get any response for one week. Then she called the CBI officer and asked when she can come and explain the matter. Nothing happened in the case in 2019, 2020 and 2021.”
He further argued that Chanda received a notice in June asking her to appear in July in 2022.
“She wrote to CBI seeking postponement of the date of appearance, CBI agreed. So there’s wasn’t any non-cooperation from her side. There was a silence for next 5 months and then CBI directly asked the couple to appear in Dec 2022. On December 23, perfunctory interrogation and the couple was arrested,” he said.
“If CBI didn’t feel the need to arrest till December 2022, what prompted them to make the arrest now? Section 41a of CrPC says that if a person continues to comply with the terms of a notice issued by the agency under this section, the person shall not be arrested. Important question is if 41a was complied with. Everyone has to be careful if this is a whimsical and arbitrary arrest and not necessary,” he added.
The lawyer said that the ED investigating the alleged money laundering angle in the case, recorded 14 statements of Chanda Kochhar.
“These statements ran over 210 pages. Over 800 pages of documents were provided by Chanda. And here, CBI is saying that she had to be arrested as she wasn’t cooperative and was giving vague answers,” he said.
“In Dec 2022, Chanda carried written notes of her explanation in anticipation of what the agency would want to know from her,” he added.
The lawyer argued that CBI told the trial court that they got a sanction letter from the competent authority under section 17a of the Prevention of Corruption act in July 2021.
“The FIR was registered in 2019, which shows that no prior permission was sought from the competent authority,” he said.
The case is related to alleged irregularities and corrupt practices in the sanction of a Rs 1,875 crore loan disbursed by ICICI Bank to the Videocon Group between 2009 and 2011.
During its preliminary inquiry, the CBI found that six loans worth Rs 1,875 crore were sanctioned to the Videocon Group and companies associated with it between June 2009 and October 2011, in an alleged violation of the laid-down policies of ICICI Bank.
The agency claimed the loans were declared non-performing assets in 2012, causing a loss of Rs 1,730 crore to the bank.