The Supreme Court rejected Chanda Kochhar’s appeal against the Bombay High Court’s verdict upholding her termination as the CEO and managing director of ICICI Bank.
The High Court had on March 5 dismissed Kochchar’s petition against her sacking by ICICI Bank on grounds of alleged money laundering. The Supreme Court agreed with the bank that Kochhar’s plea does not stand as it concerns a private entity.
“We are not inclined to interfere in the impugned order. This falls within the realm of private contract between bank and employer,” Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said.
In her appeal, Kochhar argued that she had resigned in 2019 but the bank changed it into a termination, which she contended was “illegal”. Former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who represented Kochhar, said there can be no sacking without prior appeal. She also alleged that the bank did not pay bonus that was due to her from 2009 to 2018.
Kochhar had approached the Bombay High Court on November 30, 2019, challenging her termination. Her appeal argued that ICICI bank had earlier accepted her resignation and so the termination was “illegal and untenable”.
In 2019, The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had filed a criminal case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act against Kochhar, her husband Deepak Kochhar, and Venugopal Dhoot of Videocon Group. The ED had alleged that the Kochhars “illegally sanctioned” loans to the tune of ₹1,875 crore to the Videocon Group companies.
Even as the three denied the allegations, Deepak was arrested in September. On November 20, ED assured the Supreme Court that it would not take any coercive action against Chanda Kochhar in a different money laundering case.
The ED is also probing two other cases of loans given by ICICI Bank during Kochhar’s tenure to Sterling BioTech, a pharmaceutical firm, and to Bhushan Steel Group, both of which are being probed for alleged money laundering.
The ED’s case is based on a complaint registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is conducting an independent investigation. The CBI had also named all the three individuals and added three companies, including two of the Videocon Group.
NuPower Renewables, a company allegedly controlled by Deepak Kochhar, had also been named. The CBI has alleged that Dhoot invested in NuPower through a company called Supreme Energy in a quid pro quo deal through loans cleared by ICICI after Chanda Kochhar became CEO in 2009.