Supreme Court dismisses Chanda Kochhar's plea against termination by ICICI Bank

The bench was hearing Kochhar's appeal against the March 5 order of the high court which had dismissed the plea against termination of her services as managing director and CEO of ICICI Bank while noting that the dispute arises from a contract of ...

Supreme Court junks Chanda Kochhar's plea challenging termination as MD, CEO
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed Chanda Kochhar’s plea against her termination from ICICI Bank where she was managing director and chief executive, calling it a “contractual matter” between a private bank and its employee.

Kochhar had resigned from ICICI Bank after she was accused of conflict of interest in a loan deal between the lender and the Videocon Group. But the bank later converted her resignation into “termination”. Kochhar challenged it at the Bombay High Court, arguing that her termination without prior sanction of the central bank was “wrong” and “mala fide”, and when her plea was dismissed, she approached the top court.

On Tuesday, she argued through senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi that top bank employees were a class apart and must be protected from such arbitrary actions. She also argued that the decision of the bank, where she had put in 30-odd years, had affected her reputation.


“You can claim damages if you think that you have been defamed,” a three-judge bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said, while dismissing her appeal against the HC order. “There’s no rocking of the bank or banking systems,” it added.

Rohatgi persisted, saying that the Reserve Bank of India had no jurisdiction to give post-facto approval to the move to terminate Kochhar after three months. He claimed that she had sent in her letter of voluntary resignation in October 2018.

Her resignation was converted into termination after an internal report submitted by the Srikrishna Commission. “I have not taken part in its proceedings. I don’t have a copy of the report. My termination has nothing to do with that report,” Kochhar claimed in the court.
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Rohatgi also argued that the distinction between public and private banks in recent years had blurred and that the huge public funds with private banks gave them an element of public character.

“Banks can’t say they can hire and fire,” he said. But the bench rejected all his arguments saying: “We are not inclined to interfere.”

Kochhar is also accused of receiving kickbacks through her husband for sanctioning the loans given by ICICI Bank to the Videocon Group, a charge which is being investigated by the CBI. The Enforcement Directorate is separately investigating charges of money laundering against the couple. The Kochhars and Videocon have denied wrongdoing.

The ED had assured the top court that no coercive action would be taken against her for now. Her husband, Deepak Kochhar, has been arrested and is in jail.
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At the previous hearing, Rohatgi had insisted that the couple had been completely exonerated by the authorities under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had, however, contested this version, saying that only the attachment of their properties by the ED had been set aside.
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