PUNJAB NATIONAL Bank’s (PNB) former deputy manager, Gokulnath Shetty — arrested for allegedly conniving with absconding diamantaire Mehul Choksi and others to defraud the bank to the tune of Rs 7,000 crore — Wednesday refused to give consent to CBI’s plea seeking to conduct polygraph and narco-analysis tests on him.
Over a year after arresting him, the CBI, earlier this month, had claimed that it is yet to ascertain Shetty’s motives and the undue pecuniary advantage obtained by him in violating bank rules in favour of Choksi’s firms.
In his reply to the CBI plea filed on Wednesday, 63-year old Shetty has said that he is a senior citizen and has been suffering from various health issues, including high blood pressure and vertigo. He has added that he is in jail since March 6, 2018, which has further deteriorated his physical and mental health.
“It (the tests) would take a severe toll on his health… The agency has also failed to mention as to which type of polygraph and narco-analysis tests it is requesting to conduct, which clearly shows that the agency is not clear in its thoughts as to why they want to conduct these tests at the cost of the health of the accused and at the cost of his life, causing injustice towards him (sic),” the application, filed on his behalf, stated. It further refers to the Supreme Court judgment, which mandates taking the accused’s consent for any such tests, as no person, accused in any offence, can be compelled to be give evidence against himself. Shetty’s plea stated that the CBI’s plea, if allowed, would amount to a grave violation of his fundamental rights.
Shetty was a deputy manager in the Brady House branch of PNB in south Mumbai. The CBI has claimed that in 2017, Shetty issued 143 letters of understanding (LoU) to Choksi’s firms and allegedly in an unauthorised manner, enhanced values of Foreign Letters of Credit issued to them in favour of overseas banks without following prescribed procedure by the Reserve Bank of India and PNB.
The agency has further said that despite sustained interrogation, Shetty did not divulge information with regard to the “illegal gratification” received by him for showing favours to Choksi and his companies.
In its chargesheet, the CBI has claimed that the quid pro quo revealed to the accused is “miniscule” compared to the quantum of the alleged fraud.
Shetty has claimed that he fully cooperated with the probe. He has said that the allegedly pecuniary advantage is “incidental” for the trial, while the crux of the offence is the issuance of the fraudulent LoUs. “The claim by the agency that he has received some pecuniary advantage is just an assumption… and is incidental for the trial, as the crux of the offence is the issuance of the LoUs, the records of which are with the bank and the prosecution (sic),” the plea stated. The court is likely to decide on the CBI plea next week.
Meanwhile, the CBI has also moved an application in court seeking polygraph and narco analysis tests on Shetty in connection to a similar fraud at PNB involving Choksi’s nephew Nirav Modi.