Home BUSINESS Axis Bank in the eye of the storm

Axis Bank in the eye of the storm

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 A closely guarded ‘secret’ in the banking and financial sector these days is how Axis Bank the third-largest bank in India with around 4,000 branches, nine international offices, and over 12,000 ATMs spread across the country – is on the brink of disaster.

Axis bank has a market capitalization of ₹1.31 trillion (US$18 billion) and about 55,000 people on its payroll.

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The bank headquartered in Mumbai is owned mostly by institutional promoters like United India Insurance Company, Oriental Insurance Company, National Insurance Company, New India Assurance Company, GIC, LIC, UTI as well as other mutual funds, FIIs, banks, insurance companies, corporate bodies, and individual investors.

In a move with far-reaching consequences, Mohnish Jabalpure who claims to be a social worker has filed a criminal writ petition in the Bombay High Court (Nagpur Bench) case No. 5/2019 accusing the Reserve Bank of India, Maharashtra Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar besides several serving and retired police officers – for misusing their official position to favor Axis Bank.

In a signed affidavit before the Bombay High Court, the petitioner Mohnish Jabalpure has alleged that a total of 20 respondents including the Director-General of Police, Former Director-General of Police Pravin Dixit, Additional Commissioner of Police Pradhnya Sarvade, the then Commissioner of Police Nagpur (now CP Pune) K Venkateshan and other police officers were involved in the case.

According to him, the above-mentioned respondents transferred the salaries of around 1.5 Lakh policemen amounting to over 11000 crores in the Axis Bank salary account every year.

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The petition came up for hearing before a division bench of justices PN Deshmukh and Pushpa Ganediwala who asked the government to examine the documents and issue notices to respondents.

The court also allowed the petitioner to do so.

The petitioner allegedly blamed Devendra Fadnavis and other government officials for misusing their official powers to transfer money in the salary accounts of police personnel to Axis Bank a private bank instead of larger public sector banks like State bank of India –every month.

 ALLEGATION:

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Amruta Fadnavis (left) and Priyanka Chaturvedi (right)

  • The respondents misused their powers to keep Devendra Fadnavis in good humor and help boost the career prospects of his wife Amruta D. Fadnavis in Axis Bank. Fadnavis the 18th CM of Maharashtra remained in office for 5 years and 8 days till the President’s rule was imposed.
  • This was done with the knowledge of the state Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar to cultivate Fadnavis who was also holding charge of the State’ Home, General Administration, as well as Law & Judiciary departments not specifically allotted to any other Minister.
  • Fadnavis and other officials connived to transfer the accounts of Police Officials as well as other beneficiaries of Niradhar Yojna from other nationalized banks all over the state to Axis Bank.
  • The government of Maharashtra tried to promote AXIS bank where the CM’s wife works. According to the complainant ‘more and more police’ officials’ means lakhs of money transferred from other banks/ nationalized Bank to Axis Bank and loss to the nationalized banks.

HOW THE DRAMA UNFOLDED?

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  • The BJP – Shiv Sena pre-poll alliance crash-landed due to differences over sharing of Chief Ministerial post
  • Shiv Sena joined hands with NCP and Congress to form the government and Uddhav Thackeray became Chief Minister
  • Mayor Naresh Mhaske of Thane Municipal Corporation controlled by the Shiv Sena raised a big storm by claiming that the new government was planning to shift the salary accounts from Axis Bank to a public sector banks like State bank of India. The Mayor reportedly called meetings of civic officials to discuss the shifting Axis accounts to a nationalized bank. The Shiv Sena run State government is also planning to do so in case of the Maharashtra police accounts currently with Axis bank.
  • If what he says comes true Axis bank will lose well over Rs 11,000 crore annually.
  • This led to a war of words between Shiv Sena deputy leader Priyanka Chaturvedi and Amruta Fadnavis Vice-President – Corporate Head of Axis Bank who even otherwise were not on very friendly terms and had locked horns on Twitter several times. Their verbal dual is the latest talk of the town in the state political circles.
  • “I urge the Maharashtra government to investigate how moving accounts to Axis bank isn’t a clear case of conflict of interest. Also, investigate whether any/ how much CSR was given to the BJP schemes by Axis Bank after moving the accounts?” Priyanka tweeted.
  • Amruta rebutted the claim in an interview, “The accounts were bagged by Axis bank much before I married Devendra during the tenure of the Congress-NCP regime. Private Banks are also Indian banks and provide superior technological services. The government should think rationally. By doing this (shifting the accounts), they (the government) are trying to target Devendra and me.”
  • “This is against freedom of speech and both I and Devendra will not be silenced,” Amruta added
  • “Surprised that she is calling it vendetta because if it were, she agrees that the former CM favored moving accounts to Axis Bank as she was employed there. If the decision to move accounts were business as usual with zilch involvement of her and former CM then where is the question of targeting?” Priyanka tweeted.
  • The Mumbai Police too chipped in to suggest that no official decision has been taken to shift the accounts yet
  • A dummy-official Axis Bank communique clarified that it has not received any communication from the state government or any of its departments to transfer the savings accounts of employees and release the fixed deposits of government bodies
  • “Having a bad leader was not Maharashtra’s fault, but Staying with one is!” Amruta Fadnavis retaliated
  • Chaturvedi counter-attacked by claiming that Amruta Fadnavis was missing the point
  • Amruta then tweeted — tagging chief minister Uddhav Thackeray — “You don’t lead people by hitting people overhead, that’s assault — not leadership,” she said. This lead to a demonstration by Shiv Sainiks against her.

Axis

When it seemed to be developing into a big, uncontrollable conflagration the media tried to corner Devendra Fadnavis who simply said that some political workers had stooped too low to troll his wife who is an independent personality.

The BJP spokesperson in Maharashtra Keshav Upadhye described this as a political vengeance and violation of freedom of speech and expression

On the contrary, Priyanka Chaturvedi justified the move to change the accounts from Axis to other banks. According to her – it was the government’s duty to operate accounts in nationalized banks and the Devendra Fadnavis-run BJP government changed the policy for their vested interest.

Another dimension to this battle was added when Rashmi Thackeray took over as the editor of Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece and Marathi daily Saamana from her husband Uddhav Thackeray who resigned before being sworn as the Chief Minister of Maharastra. Rashmi Thackeray is the third editor of Saamana launched by her father-in-law Bal Thackeray on January 23, 1988, as a medium of communication with the people of Maharashtra. After Bal Thackeray’s death, her husband Uddhav Thackeray was the voice of Saamna since 2012. Senior Shiv Sena leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut as its Executive Editor. The Sena mouthpiece also has a Hindi edition.

DID DEVENDRA FADNAVIS HELP HIS WIFE: THE PETITIONER’S CLAIM?   

The petitioner alleges that the Maharashtra Government issued a circular dated 11/05/2017 which was contrary to the public interest and intended to benefit a private/individual or bank; hence it should be declared invalid, in bad faith and struck down as invalid.

According to the Petitioner Fadnavis used his official position to benefit the Bank in which his wife is working without any public interest. Hence it is a fit case for a CBI inquiry as per the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and Indian Penal Code.  The petitioner goes on to allege that the Maharashtra Government Circular was passed under the influence of the Chief Minister without adopting proper procedures just to help Axis Bank. This amounts to arbitrarily, discrimination as well as favoritism and nepotism.

The petitioner alleges that Amruta Padnavis was able to obtain a valuable post in Axis bank “right from stage and when her husband became the Chief Minister and after passing this Maharashtra Government Circular she reaches to the post of President of Corporate Head, Western India, Axis Bank, from the post of cashier in Axis bank at Nagpur within a short time, which was not possible.” The petitioner alleges that the Maharashtra Government issued a circular dated 11/05/2017 which was contrary to the public interest and intended to benefit a private/individual or bank; hence it should be declared invalid, in bad faith and struck down as invalid.

To assert his claim the petitioner Jabalpure alleges that Fadnavis allegedly ensured that all the employees of the police department of every rank, and class were directed to open their account in Axis Bank only – instead of any nationalized bank in 2017. The petitioner goes on to assert that the Government Circular was one -without any authority of law, secondly, no tender was floated and no communication was entered with any other Bank.

There is seemingly more than what meets the eye

According to a recent RBI report on ‘Trends and Progress of Banking 2018-19’ Public sector banks are most unsafe and account for 56% – i.e. more than half the fraud cases and more than 90% of the amount involved.

The SBI just happens to have the largest number of branches and ATMs in India simply because many small entities merged into it. They is otherwise no common link, heritage, or work culture. It is a can of worms- yet to be opened.

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Taazakhabar News Bureau
Taazakhabar News Bureau is a team of seasoned journalists led by Neeraj Mahajan. Trusted by millions readers worldwide.

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