IL&FS scam: Chennai court rejects Ravi Parthasarthy’s bail plea in ITNL case

A special court here has rejected the bail plea of jailed former IL&FS Chairman Ravi Parthasarthy in the IL&FS Transportation Network Ltd (ITNL) case related to the Rs 1 lakh crore IL&FS scam, which surfaced in 2018 after several group entities defaulted on repayments due to severe liquidity problems.

Justice M. Jothiraman of the special court under the Tamil Nadu Protection of Interest of Depositors (TNPID) Act has refused to grant bail to Parthasarathy, who is the chief accused and presently under judicial custody for the Rs 1 lakh crore IL&FS scam.

The court rejected the accused’s varied contentions that included “ill-health”, “non-applicability of TNPID Act in the case” and “lack of Chennai special court’s territorial jurisdiction” to hear the case.

Rejecting the bail plea last week, the special court noted, “At this juncture, the contention of the petitioner that the TNPID Act is not applicable and no territorial jurisdiction cannot be entertained by this court. Where medical facilities can be made available to the accused by the jail authorities, the accused is not entitled to get bail on health ground.”

“As pointed out by the special public prosecutor, the investigation is in preliminary stage. In view of the above circumstances, this court is not inclined to allow the bail petition,” Jothiraman added.

IANS had first reported that Parthasaraty was arrested on June 9 by the Economic Offences Wing of Chennai Police (EOW-Chennai) from Mumbai and produced before the special TNPID court on June 10, which remanded him to judicial custody till June 24. Subsequently, on the plea of EOW-Chennai, the special court granted three-day police custody of the accused.

The EOW-Chennai, which is probing the scam under the Tamil Nadu Protection of Interest of Depositors (TNPID) (in Financial Establishment) Act, 1997, under Sections 420, 409, 120B r/w 109 of the IPC, termed the case as “one of the biggest economic frauds in the history of our country”.

The total default caused to the entire creditors is approximately to the tune of Rs 1 lakh crore.

Seeking the remand of Parthasarathy, the EOW-Chennai said that his custodial interrogation may reveal various crucial facts which are in his exclusive domain, as he was the key managerial personnel directly involved and in-charge of the affairs of IL&FS scam and active conspirator in this entire case.

“This is a mammoth scam involving huge sum of monies which have been siphoned off/diverted by the accused in connivance with other persons. His personal remand is the need of the hour and in the interest of investigation under the offence of Tamil Nadu Protection of Interest of Depositors, 1997 and other IPC offences, to secure the ends of justice,” EOW-Chennai had said.

The EOW-Chennai remand note observed that the Union of India had to intervene since the activities of the IL&FS group affected the interests of the economy of the country.

The companies were set up as a vehicle of fraud and innocent depositors were cheated and their livelihoods were taken away by virtue of the fraud committed by Parthasarathy, who controlled the arm and mind of the IL&FS group and was responsible for managing its day-to-day affairs and played a major role in the scam.

Notably, Parthasarthy served as the President and CEO of IL&FS group since 1989 and became the Chairman of the board of directors of IL&FS group in 2004. He was at the helm of affairs of the IL&FS Group for over 30 years since its inception.

The FIR filed by 63 moons technologies limited to recover its Rs 200 crore investment in the NCDs of ITNL, a subsidiary of IL&FS, stated that in or around 2018, IL&FS Group had defaulted in their financial debt/obligations and has been defaulting since then, which busted the entire scandalous activities of the IL&FS Group and its key managerial persons, including Parthasarathy.

The company itself had admitted the massive liability of Rs 91,000 crore towards various investors and creditors.

The Serious Fraud Investigating Officer (SFIO) in its report to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs observed that the coterie of individuals, led by Parthasarthy, were controlling the affairs of the IL&FS Group.

In its petition, the Government of India mentioned, “IL&FS had created a trust known as the Employee Welfare Trust which was used as an instrument to enrich its directors at the cost of the company. The said trust was used to perpetrate fraud on IL&FS ad its group companies. The said trust owned 12 per cent of IL&FS Limited. Ravi Parthasarathy and certain other senior IL&FS personnel were major beneficiaries of the Trust.”

An RBI report on March 22, 2019 also underlined that the major role in perpetrating the fraud and financial irregularity was played by Parthasarathy during his tenure as group chairman.

The report pointed out that the indiscriminate sanctioning of loans, diverting of funds, flouting of RBI norms, fraudulent transactions to certain accounts, showing inflated numbers of subsidiaries, conflict of interest and concentration of power in the hands of few, which included Ravi Parthasarathy and his coterie.

The NCLT, Mumbai, has observed that the Committee of Directors (COD) from among the now suspended board of directors of IL&FS Group abused their powers through various acts, including circuitous transactions, and increased the debt burden across the IL&FS Group.

The Union of India had filed a company petition No. 3638 of 2018 under Sections 241 and 242 of the Companies Act seeking suspension of the board of directors of IL&FS under Section 242(2)(k) of the Companies Act.

The petition stated that Parthasarthy and his team were responsible for the negligence, incompetency and misleading the public by presenting rosy financial statements.

IL&FS was camouflaging its financial statements by hiding severe mismatch between its cash flows and payment obligations. It was also hiding total lack of liquidity and glaring adverse financial ratios.