The Supreme Court today dismissed Chanda Kochhar’s appeal against the Bombay High Court order that had upheld her termination as managing director and CEO of ICICI Bank. The high court had earlier this year dismissed a petition by Chanda Kochhar against ICICI Bank Ltd on her removal as managing director and chief executive officer (CEO) of the bank.
Kochhar had submitted the plea before the court yesterday, seeking a remedy against her removal when the board had already accepted her early retirement request.
India’s second-largest private sector bank decided to terminate Kochhar after a committee led by Justice BN Srikrishna found that Videocon Industries was granted loans by ICICI Bank and, in quid pro quo, Videocon invested in Nupower Renewables, the company of Kochhar’s husband.
NuPower Renewables, controlled by Deepak Kochhar, had also been named.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had filed a criminal case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act early last year against Kochhar, her husband Deepak Kochhar and Venugopal Dhoot of Videocon Group to investigate alleged irregularities and corrupt practices in sanctioning Rs 1,875 crore in loans by ICICI Bank.
The CBI has alleged that Dhoot invested in NuPower through another company, Supreme Energy, in a quid pro quo deal via loans cleared by ICICI after Chanda Kochhar took over as CEO of ICICI Bank in May 2009.
“We are not inclined to interfere in the impugned order. This falls within the realm of private contract between bank and employer,” the Supreme Court said, rejecting Kochhar’s plea.
The committee indicted Chanda Kochhar. The board sacked her earlier this year after taking into consideration the Srikrishna report.
The board also informed Kochhar that it had decided to treat her separation from the bank as “termination for cause” under its internal policies and that it requires clawback of the entire bonus of Rs 7.42 crore paid to her from April 2009 until March 2018.
The ED is probing at least two other instances of loans given by ICICI Bank during Kochhar’s tenure to Gujarat-based pharmaceutical firm Sterling Biotech and to Bhushan Steel Group. The ED is probing both for alleged money laundering.
The ED case is based on a complaint registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation, which is running an independent investigation. It had named all three individuals too and added three companies, including two under the Videocon name, owned by Dhoot’s companies.