Kochhars’ arrest by CBI was abuse of power, says HC | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Kochhars’ arrest by CBI was abuse of power, says HC

BySahyaja MS, Mumbai
Feb 20, 2024 08:10 AM IST

Bombay HC criticizes CBI for "abuse of power" in Chanda and Deepak Kochhar's arrest, calls it without proper evidence. Interim bail confirmed.

The Bombay high court has come down heavily on the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for its handling of the arrest of Chanda Kochhar and her husband Deepak Kochhar in December 2022, calling their arrest an “abuse of power” and “without application of mind”.

New Delhi, India - May 14, 2019: Former ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar and her husband Deepak Kochhar arrive to appear before Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with a bank loan fraud and money laundering case probe, in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (Photo by Biplov Bhuyan/ Hindustan Times) (Biplov Bhuyan/HT PHOTO)
New Delhi, India - May 14, 2019: Former ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar and her husband Deepak Kochhar arrive to appear before Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with a bank loan fraud and money laundering case probe, in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (Photo by Biplov Bhuyan/ Hindustan Times) (Biplov Bhuyan/HT PHOTO)

The scathing remarks were part of the court’s February 6 order that confirmed the interim bail granted to the couple on January 9, 2023. The order became available on Monday.

The CBI alleged that Chanda Kochhar, during her tenure as the CEO and MD of ICICI Bank, granted loans to Videocon Group companies, promoted by Venugopal Dhoot, in a quid pro quo arrangement. Shortly after receiving the loans, Videocon Group invested in a company founded by Deepak Kochhar, the agency claimed.

During the final arguments on the Kochhars’ petition, the CBI contended that the arrest was warranted due to the couple’s lack of cooperation in the probe and the need to uncover the conspiracy involving ICICI Bank.

The high court, however, disputed the agency’s claim, saying the arrest was not supported by any new evidence discovered during the investigation. Rather, they were based on the same information available to the investigating officer when he issued notices to the couple under section 41A of the Criminal Procedure Code in 2022, the court said.

If a person complies with such notices, issued for appearance before police, he should not be arrested unless there are recorded reasons, a division bench of justice Anuja Prabhudessai and justice N R Borkar said.

The Kochhars’ counsel, senior advocate Amit Desai, claimed they had indeed complied with the CBI notices and had appeared twice for questioning. The court agreed with Desai’s statement that exercising their right against self-incrimination did not constitute non-cooperation and said remaining silent during questioning did not equate to non-cooperation.

The bench also scrutinised the timing and basis of the arrest, questioning why it occurred more than three years after the registration of an FIR. Highlighting the timeline, the court said the preliminary enquiry went on from 2009 to 2017 while the FIR was filed in 2019.

“Despite the gravity of the offence, the petitioners were not interrogated or summoned for a period of over three years from the date of registration of the crime,” it said.

Furthermore, the court acknowledged that while investigating agencies have the authority to interrogate suspects and make subjective judgments regarding arrest, this authority is not entirely immune from judicial review.

“The routine arrest without due consideration of the law amounts to an abuse of power,” the bench said and pulled up the CBI for failing to demonstrate the circumstances or evidence justifying the decision to arrest the Kochhars.

It, however, rejected Chanda Kochhar’s claim that her arrest was illegal because it was conducted after sunset and not in the presence of a woman police officer.

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