THE KOCHHAR SAGA TWISTS
Reportedly on the verge of being dropped, the investigations into the conduct of Chanda Kochhar, former ICICI Bank managing director and chief executive officer, took a sharp turn on January 25 as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) booked her for “dishonestly sanctioning loans to the Videocon group”. Raids were conducted on Videocon’s headquarters in Mumbai and an office in Aurangabad, while there were searches at the offices of NuPower Renewables, an alternative energy company cofounded by Venugopal Dhoot, chairman of Videocon, and Chanda’s husband Deepak. The CBI also named a number of senior bankers, either currently or formerly associated with ICICI Bank, in its FIR, prompting a sharp response from Arun Jaitley, the Union finance minister who is now minister without portfolio as he convalesces in the US. Jaitley accused the CBI, the country’s premier investigating agency, of “adventurism”.
His criticism that the CBI casts its net too widely and, as a result, often fails to secure convictions, received nods of sympathy from politicians and commentators across party and ideological lines, though some eyebrows were raised at the strength and tenor of Jait ley’s intervention. He accused officers of “megalomania” in a blog post, essentially condemned the CBI as unprofessional, and asked if its investigation was “a journey to nowhere (or everywhere)”. While agreeing with the thrust of his argument, critics such as former finance minister P. Chidambaram, also under the CBI scanner alongside son Karti, wondered why Jaitley waited until (in the latter’s words) “the who’s who of the banking industry” was implicated before articulating doubts about the standard functioning of the CBI.
On the CBI’s part, it maintains it is still only asking questions of some