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Letter to BS: Shikha Sharma's case is different from Chanda Kochhar's

The former is being punished for proven inefficiency, but the latter is under cloud for lack of probity

Business Standard 

This is with reference to Shyamal Majumdar’s column “Hard knocks for board reputation” (April 12). Perhaps there were persuasive reasons because of which the chairperson of ICICI bank gave Chanda Kochhar, MD & CEO of the bank, a clean chit about the loan sanctioned to Videocon group without feeling the need for an independent enquiry. She has an excellent track record and has made a great contribution in making ICICI one of the best banks. She is seen as a mature top manager who doesn’t make politically correct statements.

It is unlikely that she would have participated in the credit committee or board meeting if she did not see the deal as professionally correct. Recklessness is not her attribute. If so, the chairman was right in exonerating her expeditiously given the impact on the morale of the staff and Kochhar herself.

However, banking is a profession involving money. Bank personnel should not just be honest, they should be seen as honest. Kochhar compromised her position in popular view by not recusing herself from that meeting. For the same reason, an objective enquiry, to be conducted by an independent committee appointed by the board of directors, may be held giving her an opportunity to present her case in accordance with the principles of natural justice. She might be asked to go on leave only if she tries to obstruct the enquiry.

Shikha Sharma’s case is different from Kochhar’s. The former is being punished for proven inefficiency, but the latter is under cloud for lack of probity (conflict of interest). The management of Axis Bank should thank the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for pre-empting its decision to extend her term. Will the RBI show the same alacrity when it comes to the distressed assets overburdening public sector banks?

Y G Chouksey Pune

First Published: Mon, April 16 2018. 00:49 IST