Chanda Kochhar moves Supreme Court challenging termination from ICICI Bank
Former ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar on Friday moved the Supreme Court challenging her termination from the bank, and sought all the pensionary benefits, including bonuses and stock options, post her retirement.
Kochhar has challenged the Bombay High Court’s March 5 order that dismissed her petition against her termination on the grounds that the termination was under a private contract and it can’t be challenged.
“This rejection on the ground of “maintainability” by the HC is wholly erroneous, arbitrary, and contrary to law well settled by the SC”, she said, adding that her termination came on January 30, 2019, almost four months after the bank approved her voluntary resignation on October 4, 2018 and therefore, the termination was “illegal, untenable and unsustainable in law”.
Kochhar had approached the HC in November 2019 alleging that her termination was in violation of the rules and the lender had not sought prior approval from the RBI, and this was in breach of Section 35B(1) of the Banking Regulation Act, which renders the termination of her services as the managing director of ICICI Bank and consequential action (that too post her Retirement) illegal.
The HC dismissed her petition “on the sole ground of “maintainability”, despite there being clear violation of a statutory obligation under The Banking Regulation Act, 1949 by both, ICICI Bank and the RBI, the petition stated.
An ICICI Bank internal inquiry last year had found that Kochhar violated disclosure norms on conflict of interest. The board said her October 2018 exit would not be treated as normal resignation but as dismissal. She contended that the bank also denied her remuneration and clawed back all the bonuses and stock options between April 2009 and March 2018, for her alleged role in granting out-of-turn loans worth Rs 3,250 crore to the Videocon Group which benefitted her husband Deepak Kochhar.
A Bench led by Justice SK Kaul posted the matter for further hearing after a week.
Meanwhile, the Enforcement Directorate in a separate case told the Supreme Court that no coercive action will be taken against Kochhar, who is facing charges for alleged money laundering. The assurance came after Kochhar sought to free her arrested husband Deepak Kochhar, who is also facing money-laundering charges, on bail.
The investigative agency had filed a criminal case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act early last year against Kochhar, her husband and Venugopal Dhoot of Videocon Group to investigate alleged irregularities and corrupt practices in sanctioning Rs 1,875 crore in loans by ICICI Bank.
As Deepak Kochhar bail is being taken up by a trial court on Monday, the apex court posted the petition for hearing on November 27.