The ED on Tuesday opposed in the Delhi High Court the bail plea of former MD of National Stock Exchange Chitra Ramkrishna in a money laundering case related to alleged illegal phone tapping of NSE employees, saying she was the "mastermind" behind the criminal conspiracy in the matter.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) told Justice Jasmeet Singh that the "proposal for call interception and monitoring, which was in the guise of study of cyber vulnerability", was processed through Ramkrishna who was the deputy managing director at the relevant time, and that she identified the telephone numbers and the employees for monitoring.
It said that all the approvals were either processed through her or given by her and that the "illegal interception was co-terminus with her tenure at NSE".
"She represented NSE at an initial meeting for the award of the contract. The telephone numbers and the employees who were identified for monitoring were identified by her.
"We have statements of multiple people who were working at NSE at that time, who all corroborate that she was identifying the telephone numbers and the employees. When confronted with them…, she admits to these. There is no denial. In fact, the mastermind of this entire criminal conspiracy is the applicant before my lord," submitted advocate Zoheb Hossain on behalf of the ED.
The phone-tapping case, according to the ED, pertains to a period from 2009 to 2017 when former NSE CEO Ravi Narain, Ramkrishna, Executive Vice-President Ravi Varanasi, and Head (Premises) Mahesh Haldipur and others allegedly conspired to cheat NSE and its employees.
For this purpose, they engaged iSEC Services Pvt Ltd for illegal interception of phone calls of employees of NSE in the guise of doing a periodic study of cyber vulnerabilities of NSE, the agency alleged, Chitra Ramkrishna, who was earlier arrested by the CBI in the alleged NSE co-location scam, was taken into custody by the ED on July 14.
Hossain told the court that the payment of over Rs 4 crore made by NSE to iSEC for the "illegal actions" from January 2009 till February 2017 are proceeds of crime and the acts of the accused were in violation of the law including the Telegraph Act.
Responding to Ramkrishna's claim that she should be given bail for being a woman, he contended that the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) only provides for "discretion" with courts to grant bail to certain classes of accused persons, including a woman, and it was "not a matter of thumb rule".
The lawyer emphasised that economic offences stand at a grave footing and argued, "The court says (in a judgement) if you are educated, your professionally savvy, you are qualified, you are running companies and committing economic offences, you will be treated at par with men, You can't be given some special benefit."
"The entire surrounding circumstances, the statements of people confirm the fact, along with the material found, that it was her brainchild throughout," he said.
Ramkrishna was appointed as Joint MD NSE in 2009 and remained in the position till March 31, 2013. She got elevated as MD and CEO on April 1, 2013. Her tenure at NSE ended in December 2016.
Ramkrishna, represented by senior advocate Rebecca John, has sought bail on the grounds that no scheduled offence was made out against her and the allegations also do not fall within the rigours of the PMLA.
Earlier this year, the trial court had refused to grant bail to Ramkrishna in the matter at this stage.
The trial court had said that the accused not only infringed the privacy and confidentiality of NSE employees but also committed a criminal breach of trust in respect of NSE's fund and property over which she had dominion.
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