The Bombay High Court on Thursday dismissed former ICICI Bank Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Chanda Kochhar’s plea challenging her termination last year, PTI reported.
Kochhar was sacked in January 2019, about six months after she had resigned following allegations of money laundering involving the bank and the Videocon Group. ICICI Bank had said it would stop the payment of unpaid benefits, including bonus, to her and retrieve all bonuses paid from April 2009 until March 2018 over her alleged role in giving a Rs 3,250 crore-loan to Videocon, benefiting her husband Deepak Kochhar. ICICI Bank had filed a suit seeking recovery of the amounts after Chanda Kochhar challenged her sacking.
ICICI Bank had told the Bombay High Court that Kochhar’s petition should be dismissed as it is a private bank and is administered under the Companies Act, not the state or its agency. A division bench of Justices NM Jamdar and MS Karnik accepted the bank’s argument. “As a result, we uphold preliminary objections by respondent [ICICI Bank],” said the bench, according to The Indian Express. “Writ petition is dismissed.”
Kochhar’s lawyer Vikram Nankani had argued that she was sacked months after the bank approved her voluntary resignation on October 5, 2018, and therefore, the termination is “illegal, untenable, and unsustainable in law.” ICICI Bank’s lawyer, on the other hand, had argued that Kochhar’s petition seeks to contest what are purely private contractual terms.
“Contractual duties are enforceable as matters of private law by ordinary contractual remedies such as damages, injunction, specific performance and declaration,” the High Court said. “If the private body is discharging a public function and the denial of any right is in connection with the public duty imposed on such body, the public law remedy can be enforced.”
Kochhar resigned from ICICI Bank in October 2018 after questions were raised about a Rs 3,250-crore loan that the bank had given the Videocon group in 2012. Six months after the loan was sanctioned, Videocon Managing Director Venugopal Dhoot allegedly gave crores of rupees to NuPower Renewables, founded by Deepak Kochhar.
The Central Bureau of Investigation filed a case against the Kochhars and Dhoot after carrying out searches at the headquarters of Videocon Group in Mumbai and its offices in Aurangabad and offices of NuPower. The agency has alleged that the accused sanctioned the loans to private companies in a criminal conspiracy with others in order to cheat the private lender.