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Rajasthan HC stays trial court arrest order, grants bail to ex-SBI chairman Pratip Chaudhuri

Former SBI chairman Pratip Chaudhuri was arrested after a Jaisalmer court admitted a protesting petition against the Rajasthan Police filing a closure report in a case of fraud. 

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New Delhi: Former SBI Pratip Chaudhuri, who was arrested in a case of cheating and fraud by the Jaisalmer Police and sent to 14-day judicial custody on 31 October, was granted bail Tuesday.

The Jodhpur bench of the Rajasthan High Court granted Chaudhuri bail after staying a Jaisalmer court’s February 2020 order in which a non-bailable warrant was issued against him and the police was asked to arrest the retired banker.

The case in which Chaudhuri was arrested stems from a loan of Rs 24 crore that the SBI had sanctioned for a project of the Gaudavan Group — Garh Rajwada — in Jaisalmer in 2007. The project, however, was not completed and the company allegedly defaulted on the loan. The properties were then given to an Asset Reconstruction Company (ARC) following a bid.

The borrower, Harendra Singh Rathore, then lodged a complaint against Chaudhuri saying he “connived” with the ARC, named Alchemist Asset Reconstruction, and “violated Reserve Bank of India guidelines” to first wrongly declare the loan a non-performing asset (NPA), and then sold the company’s properties worth Rs 200 crore for Rs 25 crore.

Rathore had also pointed out that Chaudhuri, who retired as SBI chairman after a two-year term in September 2013, joined the board of Alchemist Asset Reconstruction Company (ARC) in October 2014, which he claimed was a case of “conflict of interest”.

An FIR in the matter was lodged in 2015 but was closed after Rajasthan Police filed a closure report stating that it was a “civil matter” between individuals, and no criminality on part of Chaudhuri was made out. 

However, Rathore, the current promoter of Gaudavan Group, then filed a protest petition in the court in 2016, asking for a re-investigation and arrest of Chaudhuri.

The Jaisalmer court in February 2020 took cognisance of a protest petition filed by and ordered for the arrest of Chaudhuri.

‘Matter of civil nature’

The petition for quashing of the 2015 FIR was filed in the Rajasthan High Court by Alok Dhir, also an accused in the case, and M. Sasi, both employees of the Alchemist Asset Reconstruction.

“The petition was filed to quash the 2015 FIR in which Pratip Chaudhuri was arrested. The police had already filed a closure report in this case but the complainant, who is the borrower, filed a protest petition, following which the trial court ordered Chaudhuri’s arrest,” Alok Dhir told ThePrint.

“Now the high court has stayed the February 2020 order of the court and all consequential orders passed by the CJM Jaisalmer.” 

Chaudhuri’s lawyer Vipin Vyas also pointed out that the complainant filed a second FIR in Jaipur with similar allegations in 2017, but it was quashed by the Supreme Court. The high court Tuesday also noted that the 2015 case is a similar case of “civil nature”, Vyas added.

“The 2017 FIR was also quashed by the Supreme Court and that too had similar allegations. We are hopeful that the 2015 FIR too will be quashed soon by the High Court. For now Chaudhuri, who has been in jail for over a week, will go home,” Vyas said.

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

Also read: Bad loan scam or defaulters dodging debt? The story behind former SBI chairman’s arrest


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