The Bombay High Court on Friday heard prosecution and defense arguments on the applications of former ICICI Bank CEO and MD Chanda Kochhar and her businessman-husband Deepak Kochhar, challenging their arrest by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in an alleged loan fraud case, and reserved its verdict which will be delivered on Monday.
The Kochhars', along with Videocon group founder Venugopal Dhoot, were arrested by the CBI late last month for their alleged roles in the case and the trio is currently in jail under judicial custody.
The Kochhar couple has termed their arrest as "illegal" on the ground that no sanction was obtained prior to the CBI action as required under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA).
Arguing on behalf of Chanda Kochhar, Senior Advocate Amit Desai, along with Lawyer Kushal Mor, submitted that she was arrested after a "perfunctory interrogation."
He argued that Chanda Kochhar didn't know what was happening with her husband's business. Desai further said a male officer arrested the former ICICI Bank chief and the relevant memo doesn't show the presence of a lady officer as required under the law.
"The law also mandates that even the personal search (of a woman accused) should be by a female officer There is an obligation on the state for protecting women," Desai argued.
The senior advocate submitted no sanction was obtained from the relevant authority before registering an FIR (first information report) in the case as mandated by section 17A of the PCA.
Senior advocate Vikram Chaudhri, appearing for Deepak Kochhar, argued that the couple completely fully with notices served under Section 41A of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) when they appeared before the central agency for questioning. Therefore, they shouldn't have been arrested.
Section 41A of the CrPC provides that a notice of appearance before police officers is required to be given in certain types of offences. The law mandates that a person who complies with the notice must not be arrested unless the officer records reasons.
Senior advocate Raja Thakare, arguing on behalf of the CBI, said the Kochhars should have made their applications before the trial court first.
Justifying their arrest, he maintained the duo had given "evasive" replies to the investigating officer's pointed questions related to the alleged fraud.
The trial court perused the case diary and only after that sent them to custody, he added.
Their arrest was for proper investigation as non-cooperation would definitely affect the probe, said Thakare, adding when people are confronted, only then the truth comes out.
He submitted that Chanda Kochhar was not touched by the male officer at the time of her arrest as the action related to a white-collar crime and the couple was not handcuffed.
After both sides concluded their arguments, the court said it will pass its order on Monday (January 9).
The CBI has named Chanda Kochhar, Deepak Kochhar as well as Venugopal Dhoot along with Nupower Renewables (NRL) managed by Deepak Kochhar, Supreme Energy, Videocon International Electronics Ltd and Videocon Industries Ltd as accused in the FIR registered in 2019 under the Indian Penal Code sections related to criminal conspiracy and provisions of the PCA.
The central agency has alleged private sector lender ICICI Bank sanctioned credit facilities to the tune of Rs 3,250 crore to these companies in violation of norms.
It further alleged that as a part of quid pro quo, 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.
With PTI Inputs