The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected former ICICI Bank CEO and managing director Chanda Kochhar’s plea against her sacking. Chanda Kochhar had approached the apex court against the order of the Bombay High Court that too had rejected her petition challenging her termination as the private lender’s chief executive.
She had approached the apex court on November 20 challenging her ouster from the bank and seeking retirement benefits which include pension, bonuses and stock options. She had challenged the March 5 order of the Bombay High Court that rejected her petition clarifying that it was done under a private contract and cannot be challenged.
Notably, Kochhar is facing charges for alleged money laundering. The apex court, while rejecting her plea, said, “We are not inclined to interfere in the impugned order. This falls within the realm of private contract between bank and employer.”
Representing Kochhar, former attorney general Mukul Rohatgi said there can be no termination without prior approval.
Case against Chanda Kochhar
The Enforcement Directorate or ED had filed a criminal case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act early last year against Chanda 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. Deepak Kochhar was arrested this September.
The Enforcement Directorate is also probing at least two other instances of loans given by ICICI Bank during Chanda Kochhar’s tenure to Gujarat-based pharmaceutical firm Sterling Biotech and to Bhushan Steel Group. Both the companies are being probed for alleged money laundering.
The Enforcement Directorate’s case is based on a complaint registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation, which is running an independent investigation; it too had named all three individuals and added three companies, including two under the Videocon name, owned by Dhoot’s companies.
Kochhar was terminated on January 30, 2019, almost four months after her voluntary resignation was accepted by ICICI Bank on October 4, 2018. She, therefore, claimed that the termination was “illegal” and unsustainable under law. She had voluntarily resigned after an internal inquiry by the bank found her guilty of not disclosing a conflict of interest.
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