Mumbai: The Bombay High Court granted interim bail to Videocon Group founder Venugopal Dhoot on Friday, nearly a month after he was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the ICICI Bank-Videocon loan fraud case. A division bench of Justices Revati Mohite Dere and P K Chavan granted bail to Dhoot on a surety of Rs one lakh. The court permitted him to furnish cash bail and then deposit the surety amount two weeks thereafter.
The bench also refused the CBI’s request to stay its order so that it could approach the Supreme Court in appeal. The court also dismissed an application filed by an advocate seeking to intervene in the matter and for the bench to recall its earlier order granting bail to two other accused in the case – Chanda Kochhar, former Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the ICICI Bank, and her husband Deepak Kochhar.
The bench imposed a cost of Rs 25,000 on the advocate. Dhoot had approached the high court on January 10 after the same bench granted bail to the Kochhars. The couple was arrested on December 23, 2022. Dhoot’s advocate Sandeep Laddha had argued that Dhoot’s arrest was unwarranted as he had cooperated in the probe. The CBI, however, opposed the same saying the Videocon Group founder had attempted to avoid the probe and hence the arrest was legal. The HC had heard the arguments and closed it for orders on January 13.
Dhoot, presently in judicial custody, had sought the HC to quash the CBI FIR and sought to be released on bail by way of an interim order. In his plea, Dhoot termed his arrest by CBI as “arbitrary, illegal, done without following due procedure of law and in gross violation of section 41 (A) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which mandates for a notice to be issued to accused to join the probe and to make an arrest only if absolutely necessary”. In its order granting interim bail to the Kochhars, the HC had come down heavily on the CBI for making the arrest in a “casual and mechanical” manner and without application of mind.
The CBI has alleged that private sector lender ICICI Bank had sanctioned credit facilities to the tune of Rs 3,250 crore to the companies of Videocon Group promoted by Dhoot in violation of the Banking Regulation Act, Reserve Bank of India’s guidelines, and credit policy of the bank. The CBI had named Chanda Kochhar, Deepak Kochhar as well as Dhoot along with Nupower Renewables (NRL) managed by Deepak Kochhar, Supreme Energy, Videocon International Electronics Ltd and Videocon Industries Ltd as accused in the FIR registered in 2019 under Indian Penal Code sections related to criminal conspiracy and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The central agency has alleged that the ICICI Bank sanctioned credit facilities to the tune of Rs 3,250 crore to these companies in violation of norms. It further alleged that as a part of quid pro quo, Dhoot made an investment of Rs 64 crore in Nupower Renewables through Supreme Energy Pvt Ltd (SEPL), and transferred SEPL to Pinnacle Energy Trust managed by Deepak Kochhar through a circuitous route between 2010 and 2012.