Union Minister Arun Jaitley took a swipe Friday at the Central Bureau of Investigation’s probe into the ICICI Bank case calling it a case of “investigative adventurism” that had digressed from focusing on just the primary targets.
“Sitting thousands of kilometers away, when I read the list of potential targets in the ICICI case, the thought that crossed my mind was again the same — Instead of focusing primarily on the target, is a journey to nowhere (or everywhere) being undertaken? If we include the entire who’s who of the Banking Industry — with or without ‘evidence — what cause are we serving or actually hurting,” Jaitley wrote in a blog Friday.
In a message directed at the Bureau, Jaitley said: “My advice to our investigators — Follow the advice of Arjun in the Mahabharat — Just concentrate on the bull’s eye”.
Jaitley’s remarks come a day after the investigating agency, which booked former ICICI Bank Ltd chief executive Chanda Kochhar, her husband Deepak Kochhar and Videocon group managing director Venugopal Dhoot for alleged criminal conspiracy and cheating on Thursday, also recommended investigating senior officials of the Bank who were part of its loan sanctioning committees in the past.
These included current CEO Sandeep Bakshi; former ICICI Bank executive director K. Ramkumar; Goldman Sachs India Chairman Sonjoy Chatterjee; MD and CEO of ICICI Prudential Life N S Kannan; Standard Chartered Bank CEO Zarin Daruwala; Tata Capital head Rajiv Sabharwal; New Development Bank president K V Kamath and Tata Capital senior advisor Homi Khusrokhan.
On these names, the CBI FIR stated that “the role of these senior officers of the sanctioning committee may also be investigated”.
Jaitley, in his blog, indicated that “one of the reasons why our conviction rates are poor is that adventurism and megalomania overtakes our investigators and professionalism takes a back seat”.
“There is a fundamental difference between investigative adventurism and professional investigation. Investigative adventurism involves casting the net too wide including people with no mens rea or even having a common intention to commit an offence, relying on presumptions and surmises with no legally admissible evidence. Adventurism leads to media leaks, ruins reputations and eventually invites strictures and not convictions. In the process, the targets are ruined because of harassment, loss of reputation and financial costs. It costs people their career”.
Professional investigation, Jaitley said, targets the real accused on the basis of actual and admissible evidence. “It rules out fanciful presumptions. There is no personal malice or corruption. It targets the guilty and protects the innocent. It secures convictions and furthers public interest”.
Jaitley, who left for the US for medical treatment after the winter session, was expected to be back later this week so that he could present the interim Budget on February 1. But he had a surgery this week and is recuperating in a US hospital. On Wednesday, a communique from Rashtrapati Bhavan announced that the Finance Ministry portfolio had been allocated to Piyush Goyal, currently minister of Railways and Coal. Jaitley was designated as a minister without portfolio.