The Supreme Court raised questions on Tuesday regarding the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) lack of objection to the repeated extensions of interim bail granted to former ICICI Bank CEO and MD, Chanda Kochhar, and her husband, businessman Deepak Kochhar, in a loan fraud case.
A bench comprising Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi directed Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, representing the CBI, to explain why the agency had not contested the repeated extensions of bail. The accused were initially granted interim bail for two weeks in January, and the court sought an explanation for the continued extensions.
The Bombay High Court had granted interim bail to the Kochhars on January 9, criticizing the CBI for their “casual and mechanical” arrest, suggesting it lacked proper consideration in the loan fraud case. The CBI arrested the Kochhars on December 23, 2022, in connection with the Videocon-ICICI Bank loan fraud case.
The Supreme Court scheduled the hearing of the CBI’s appeal against the High Court’s interim bail order for October 16 and instructed the Additional Solicitor General to ascertain the appropriate course of action. The court questioned why the CBI had not raised objections at the High Court level, stating that the plea seemed to have become obsolete since the interim bail was initially granted for only two weeks.
The Kochhars had approached the High Court, contesting their arrest as illegal and arbitrary, and had sought release on bail through an interim order. The High Court found that their arrest did not comply with the law, and they were entitled to bail while their petitions were pending.
Apart from the Kochhar couple, the CBI had also arrested Videocon Group founder Venugopal Dhoot in connection with the case. The CBI had registered a case against the Kochhar couple, Venugopal Dhoot, and others, alleging that they caused a loss to ICICI Bank by granting loans to Videocon Group companies in violation of the bank’s policies.
The central agency claimed that ICICI Bank had sanctioned credit facilities of Rs 3,250 crore to Videocon group companies in contravention of the Banking Regulation Act, the Reserve Bank of India’s guidelines, and the credit policy of the top private lender. Chanda Kochhar had served as ICICI Bank CEO and MD from 2009 to 2018.
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