Delhi HC Asks ED to Respond to Deepak Kochhar's Plea to Quash FIR in Money Laundering Case

File photo of Deepak Kochhar.

File photo of Deepak Kochhar.

Justice A J Bhambhani issued notice to ED and asked it to file a status report in the matter.

The Delhi High Court Thursday sought response of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on a plea by Deepak Virendra Kochhar, husband of former ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar, seeking quashing of FIR in connection with the ICICI Bank-Videocon money laundering case. Justice A J Bhambhani issued notice to ED and asked it to file a status report in the matter.

The high court also asked the agency to file a status report on Kochhar's plea seeking interim bail on ground of his present medical condition as he is admitted to Apollo Hospital here after being tested positive for COVID-19. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Kochhar, sought quashing of ECIR registered by the ED saying it was bad in law and that Kochhar was not informed about the grounds of arrest in writing.

He also sought to declare as illegal the order of a special judge, Mumbai, remanding Kochhar to ED custody and to set aside further remand orders. Since the arrest is illegal, the consequent orders of remand would also be untenable in law, Rohatgi, along with advocate Vijay Aggarwal, contended.

Central government standing counsel Amit Mahajan, representing the ED, raised preliminary objection on the maintainability of the petition. He contended that although the ECIR (Enforcement Case Information Report) was recorded in Delhi, since the offence was committed in Mumbai, the jurisdictional court is special judge, Mumbai and appeal would lie before the Bombay High Court.

Rohatgi disputed the position saying Kochhar was seeking quashing of the entire proceedings over which the Delhi High Court will have jurisdiction. The high court granted time to Mahajan to file a status report on the issue of territorial jurisdiction and medical ground and listed the matter for further hearing on October 14.

The ED had arrested Kochhar on September 7 under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in connection with the ICICI Bank-Videocon money laundering case probe. Kochhar, who is currently in judicial custody, was brought to Delhi by ED for the purpose of questioning during which period he tested COVID-19 positive.

During the hearing, Kochhar's counsel also contended that in an act of gross illegality, he was brought to Delhi by the ED from Mumbai purportedly for questioning and detained in lock-up, leading to him getting infected by coronavirus disease after which he was admitted to NCI, Jhajjar. Presently, he is in Apollo Hospital in Delhi and is recovering, the counsel said. The ED counsel also apprised the high court that on October 3, judicial custody of Kochhar was extended by the special judge, Mumbai, with a direction to the agency to produce him before it within three days of his discharge from the hospital.

The ED, while earlier told the Mumbai court that the investigation has revealed that on September 7, 2009, the ICICI bank sanctioned a loan worth Rs 300 crore to Videocon International Electronics Ltd (VIEL). Kochhar's wife was the chairman of the bank's sanctioning committee when this loan was given to VIEL, it had contended.

The ED had filed its case pursuant to an FIR registered by the CBI against Chanda Kochhar and Deepak Kochhar, Videocon Group promoter Venugopal Dhoot and others. ED has accused the Kochhars and their business entities of "illegal sanctioning of loans amounting to Rs 1,875 crore to the Videocon Group of companies".

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