MUMBAI/JAISALMER: The additional district judge (ADJ) in Jaisalmer on Tuesday granted bail to former SBI chairman Pratip Chaudhuri, who was sent to 14-day judicial custody by a chief judicial magistrate (CJM) from the city on November 1. Meanwhile, the Rajasthan high court also stayed the CJM’s order to arrest directors and employees of Alchemist Asset Reconstruction Company, where Chaudhuri was a director. The ADJ granted Chaudhuri bail on a personal surety of Rs 1 lakh and a deposit of Rs 50,000. He has been asked to be present in the court on November 15. After release, Chaudhuri was received by his family members. The HC had passed the stay order in two petitions filed by the directors and by employees of Alchemist ARC. During the hearing, the advocate for the petitioner pointed out that a similar FIR was filed by the complainant earlier but the same was quashed by the Supreme Court. Chaudhuri was arrested by the Jaisalmer police on November 1 based on a complaint filed by the promoters of Godawan Group which had taken a loan in 2007 for their Garh Rajwada hospitality project. SBI had subsequently classified the account as a non-performing asset and the loan was sold to Alchemist ARC a few months after Chaudhuri retired. Chaudhuri subsequently joined Alchemist as a director. The asset was finally sold under an insolvency process despite attempts by the debtor to stall the process in various courts. “We had filed a petition in the HC under Section 482 of the criminal procedure code to quash the FIR as well the order dated 12.2 20 taking cognisance of the complaint. The HC has stayed the order and subsequent orders. Also, both the ADJ and the Jodhpur bench of the Rajasthan HC have said that these are civil proceedings,” said Alok Dhir, director at Alchemist ARC. “It is unfortunate that a chronic defaulter who has not paid a penny for 13 years after taking a loan could get somebody of the stature of Chaudhuri arrested. It is a sad commentary on the legal system that recovery proceedings by a lender have been given the colour of criminality,” said Dhir. “The allegation is that the security was undervalued by SBI. In this case, what was sold was not the property but the loan. The recovery was done under the IBC process and the property was sold to the highest bidder approved by the NCLT,” he added.Complainant’s advocate Kanwarraj Singh Rathore said the case of bail petition of the accused was transferred to ADJ court from sessions court on Monday. “Although we protested on granting him bail, ADJ court justice Dalpat Singh Choudhary, while looking at his age, accepted the bail petition,” Rathore said. According to Dhir, the complainant has been engaging in ‘forum shopping’ throughout. After an original FIR was closed in 2015, they filed a subsequent FIR which was quashed by the Supreme Court. Around the same time, they filed a protest petition against the closure of the original FIR. It was in response to this petition that the arrest order was issued”. Chaudhuri’s arrest drew sharp reactions from top bankers across the country who described the arrest as unfortunate. SBI chairman Dinesh Khara expressed confidence that Chaudhuri would be released unconditionally.
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