The Supreme Court today refused to interfere with the Bombay High Court’s dismissal of a plea filed by former ICICI Bank Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director Chanda Kochhar against her termination in 2019.
Even as Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi fervently urged the Court to hear the matter, the Bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy said,
“We are not inclined to interfere in the impugned order. This falls within the realm of private contract between bank and employee. I am sorry Mr Rohatgi, we cannot interfere.”
Appearing for Kochhar, Rohatgi argued that it was not open to ICICI Bank to virtually recall the former CEO and MD’s retirement. He questioned the move to terminate Kochhar on the ground that the decision was taken without the prior approval of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
“…they have converted my resignation to termination. Whether the termination can be done without approving the resignation is a question.”
When Justice Kaul pointed out that the RBI granted its approval for Kochhar’s termination, Rohatgi countered,
“The employee is not covered under 35B (of the Banking Regulation Act). How can my resignation be converted to termination. The RBI had no business to do this.”
You decided to go out on your own, but now you are saying they are terminating you. The bank is not sacking you.
Despite Rohtagi’s plea to post the matter for next week, the Court ultimately declined to hear the matter.
Chanda Kochhar had approached the Bombay High Court challenging the ‘termination for cause’ communicated to her by ICICI Bank in January last year.
A Committee headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice BN Srikrishna had been appointed to investigate allegations that Videocon Industries was granted loans by ICICI Bank and, in quid pro quo, Videocon invested in Nupower Renewables, the company of Deepak Kochhar i.e. Chanda Kochhar’s husband.
The Justice Srikrishna Committee ultimately indicted Chanda Kochhar last year. In turn, the Board of Directors of ICICI Bank terminated her employment after considering the inquiry report. As a result, on January 30, 2019, the Board informed Kochhar that it decided to treat her separation from the bank as ‘termination for cause’.
Later, the bank revoked Kochhar’s retirement benefits. Her efforts to obtain existing and future entitlements, including unpaid amounts, stock options, and medical benefits were refused.
Thus, Kochhar approached the Bombay High Court challenging ICICI’s denial of her remuneration as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, as well as the order of termination.
In March this year, the High Court dismissed the petition filed by Kochhar, noting that ICICI Bank was a private body, and that the service conditions of Kochhar are not governed by any statute.