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Bombay High Court dismisses Chanda Kochhar’s plea against ICICI Bank

In a victory for ICICI Bank, the Bombay High Court ruled that ICICI Bank’s retroactive termination of Kochhar is prima facie ‘valid.’ The High Court also granted an application which barred its former CEO Kochhar from dealing in 690,000 shares of the lender obtained through stock options between October and December 2018.

The Bombay High Court was hearing an application filed by Chanda Kochhar against her former employer ICICI Bank, in which she sought specific performance commitments and contractual obligations promised to her following her early retirement in October 2018. After arguments, the High Court ordered Chandra Kochhar to provide information about all of her assets within six weeks.

Darius Khambata and Dr Birendra Saraf, Senior Advocates as well as the law firm Veritas Legal, are representing ICICI Bank in this case.

Aspi Chinoy, Senior Counsel and Rohan Dakshini of Rashmikant and Partners are representing Chanda Kochhar. Kochhar argued in her petition that the bank breached its contractual obligations and that it could not fire someone who had already retired.

The dispute stems from whistleblower allegations levelled against Kochhar, as well as business dealings between members of her family and the Videocon Group. Around May 2018, the ICICI Bank board decided to launch a private investigation, following which Kochhar went on leave.

The ICICI Bank accepted its CEO's request for early retirement in October 2018 and agreed to provide certain benefits. In January 2019, an internal investigation at ICICI Bank allegedly discovered that Kochhar had violated conflict of interest disclosure standards and that her October 2018 departure would be treated as a dismissal rather than a resignation. At the time of the development, the bank stated that it would seek to recoup bonuses given out during her tenure as CEO, and she would forfeit all dues and stock options for which she would have otherwise been eligible.

In a victory for the ICICI bank, the High Court upheld the lender’s decision to terminate her with retroactive effect and barred Kochhar from dealing with the 690,000 shares until further order.

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