ICICI Bank fraud case: HC grants bail to Venugopal Dhoot, comes down on CBI and special court
The Bombay high court on Friday granted interim bail to Videocon Group promoter Venugopal Dhoot on the grounds that his arrest by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the ICICI Bank fraud case was not in compliance with the law
The Bombay high court on Friday granted interim bail to Videocon Group promoter Venugopal Dhoot on the grounds that his arrest by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the ICICI Bank fraud case was not in compliance with the law.
The court also raised questions about the central agency’s investigation and the special CBI court’s order remanding Dhoot in judicial custody.
“It appears that the extension of custody was sought for confronting the petitioner with the co-accused – Chanda Kochhar and Deepak Kochhar. However, there is no satisfactory answer from the investigating agency as to why for three years it has neither confronted all the accused with one another nor demonstrated the progress of the investigation by placing the case diary before the remanding court,” a division bench of justice Revati Mohite Dere and justice P K Chavan said.
The bench also said the special court had failed to discharge its duty. “It is manifested from the impugned order passed by the remanding court that no serious efforts had been made to scrutinise the application seeking detention of the petitioner as well as the case diary presented before it. Non-compliance with section 41 and 41A of CrPC is therefore apparent.”
The onus of recording satisfaction while permitting arrest or granting extension was not only the prerogative of the investigating officer but even the remanding judge, which was not done, the HC said.
“The observations of the learned judge that there was a due compliance with section 41 and 41A of CrPC are casual and appear to be based upon ipse dixit of the investigating officer. It is apparent that the remanding court had not recorded its satisfaction as to what persuaded him to authorise the detention of the petitioner after going through the case diary produced by the respondent no.1 (CBI),” it said.
The court ordered the release of Dhoot on furnishing a cash security of ₹1 lakh for a period of two weeks and directed Dhoot to execute a personal bond of ₹1 lakh with one or more sureties in the like amount on or before the completion of two weeks.
Dhoot had approached the HC after Chanda Kochhar, former MD and CEO of ICICI Bank, and her husband Deepak Kochhar got bail earlier this month. The Kochhars were arrested by the CBI on December 24. While granting them bail, the court too had said that their arrest was “not in conformity with provisions of law”.
In his petition, Dhoot had claimed that his arrest - on December 26, 2022 – was illegal. Advocates Sandeep Ladda and Viral Babar, appearing for Dhoot, claimed that he had always cooperated with the investigating officer. The bench was also informed that Dhoot was never arrested by the Enforcement Directorate, which had filed a prosecution complaint before the special PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) court in a connected case.
The CBI alleged that between June 2009 and October 2011, ICICI Bank had sanctioned rupee term loans (RTLs) of ₹1,875 crore to six companies of Videocon Group for the purpose of enabling them to repay the loans to M/s Videocon Industries Limited. These loans, as per the allegations, were sanctioned after Chanda Kochhar took over as the MD and CEO of the bank. She was on the sanctioning committee when two loans - RTL of ₹300 crore to M/s Videocon International Electronics Limited and RTL of ₹750 crore to M/S Videocon Industries Limited - were sanctioned. The loans were disbursed on September 7, 2009, and the next day, Videocon Group, via its firm, Supreme Energy Private Limited, transferred ₹64 crore to NuPower Renewables Limited. That firm was managed by Deepak Kochhar.