Venugopal Dhoot Arrest Case: Bombay High Court Reserves Order
Venugopal Dhoot tried to subvert the investigation, said the CBI, adding that his arrest has judicial sanctity.
The Bombay High Court has reserved its orders in a petition filed by Videocon Industries Ltd.'s erstwhile promoter Venugopal Dhoot, seeking to quash an FIR filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation.
His lawyer has asked for a duplication of the orders rendered on Jan. 9, in which the Kochhar couple was released.
Dhoot was arrested by the CBI on Dec. 26, 2022—three days after the arrest of Chanda and Deepak Kochhar, in a matter pertaining to certain irregularities in an over Rs 3,000-crore loan granted to Videocon Industries by ICICI Bank Ltd. in 2012.
He was accused of offering kickbacks to Deepak Kochhar, husband of Chanda Kochhar, the then CEO and MD of ICICI Bank. According to the CBI, Dhoot invested Rs 64 crore in the Deepak Kochhar-owned NuPower Renewables Pvt., months after the sanctioning of the loan. These loans later turned out to be non-performing assets.
On Friday, Dhoot's counsel Sandeep Ladda argued that the arrest was made on grounds of non-cooperation with the investigation and for making submissions that are inconsistent with previous responses. This is completely untrue, Ladda said before the Bombay High Court.
Dhoot has cooperated fully with the investigation, since the registration of the FIR in 2019. He presented himself routinely before various investigative agencies—31 times before the Enforcement Directorate during the lockdown. He was never arrested in any of these encounters, Ladda said.
Dhoot’s failure to appear on Dec. 23 and 25, a ground provided by the CBI to rationalise the arrest made on Dec. 26, is merely on account of logistics and was not intentional, he said.
The first summons to be present on Dec. 23 was issued at a time when he was in Delhi cooperating with the Enforcement Directorate and the second summons to appear on Dec. 25 was posted on Videocon premises at a time when he was still in Delhi. He later volunteered to present himself on Dec. 26, although a summons to the effect was received later in the day.Sandeep Ladda, Counsel, Venugopal Dhoot
Dhoot was arrested mechanically, without any confrontation on Dec. 26, Ladda argued. He was arrested only after Kocchar's lawyer had objected to the main accused, that is Dhoot, still being free, Ladda highlighted.
The arrest memo clearly fails to record the kind of non-cooperation, when law requires satisfaction of sufficient reasons to undertake any arrest, he said.
Ladda also suggested material alteration in the case diary, a document key in determining the remand, considering the fact that it was a loose bundle of pages left unpaged.
However, these reasons are not sufficient to warrant the release of Dhoot, Raja Thakare, the counsel representing CBI, said.
According to Thakare, the delay in arrest does not make the arrest illegal. The investigating agency took the time to make sure that they don’t extinguish the limited period available to them for custodial interrogation that starts with the arrest of the accused. The prolonged interrogation, as required in this case, can only be done under custody, he said.
Thakare further accused Dhoot, as well as the Kochhars, of systematically attempting to subvert the interrogation by passing the buck whenever summoned.
"CBI never got an opportunity to interrogate all the accused together. While the Kochhars failed to appear on Dec. 22, Dhoot sought absence on Dec. 25. The arrest was necessary to ensure that the CBI had an opportunity to confront all of them together."
The reasons for arrest, according to him, are sufficient as the trial court has already perused the case diary and has found it to be sufficient, granting judicial sanctity to the arrest.
The high court has reserved the matter for orders.