ISRO spy case: SC cancels anticipatory bail to former police officers; Nambi Narayanan happy over the decision

While challenging the pre-arrest bail, the CBI held the officers responsible for falsely implicating the scientists, including Nambi Narayanan.

BySouth First Desk

Published Dec 02, 2022 | 4:15 PM Updated Dec 02, 2022 | 7:34 PM

The Supreme Court of India

Setting aside the Kerala High Court order granting anticipatory bail to five police officers in the 1994 ISRO espionage case, the Supreme Court on Friday, 2 December, directed the lower court to reconsider the pleas afresh.

The sensational case involved the framing of ISRO scientists, including Nambi Narayanan, a representative of Glavkosmos, and two Maldivian women.

Remitting the matter back, a bench of Justice MR Shah and Justice CT Ravikumar instructed the high court to decide on the case soon, preferably within four weeks.

The apex court also protected the officers from arrest for five weeks, till the high court decision.

The officers granted pre-arrest bails were former director general of Gujarat Police RB Sreekumar, former director general of Kerala Police Sibi Mathews, two former Kerala police officers S Vijayan and Thampi S Durga Dutt, and a former intelligence officer, PS Jayaprakash.

The Supreme Court quashed the high court order after the CBI petitioned against the anticipatory bail.

Incidentally, Sreekumar was arrested on 25 along with activist Teesta Setalvad on charges of fabricating evidence in a larger conspiracy in connection with the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Sreekumar was among three senior police officers who testified before the Nanavati-Mehta Commission set up in 2002 to probe the communal riots that took place in Gujarat in February that year.

He presented the commission with affidavits that reportedly provided proof that state authorities were the main perpetrators behind the violence which left more than a thousand dead.

Also read: ISRO scientist elected VP of International Astronautical Federation

Very serious matter: CBI

Terming the matter “very serious”, the CBI told the court that some scientists engaged in the development of a cryogenic engine were tortured and falsely implicated, affecting the indigenous development of the engine. It also put ISRO back by a decade or two, the premier probe agency told the Supreme Court.

Nambi Narayanan

Former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan. (Creative Commons)

India launched a programme to indigenously develop the cryogenic engine after Russia backed out from an agreement to supply the engines in 1993, under pressure from the United States.

The CBI accused the police officers of being a part of a team that had conspired to scuttle the ISRO’s cryogenic project. The agency further submitted that there might be a larger conspiracy involving foreign players, and the matter was under investigation.

In April 1996, the CBI absolved Narayanan saying the Kerala police had fabricated the case.

Narayanan was accused of stealing and selling a non-existent technology in 1994, the agency said while giving him a clean chit.

The CBI had also stated that Kerala’s top police officers were responsible for Narayanan’s arrest. He was in jail for 50 days.

The apex court had on 15 April, 2021 asked the CBI to probe the involvement of Kerala police officers in the framing of Narayanan. The court also directed the agency to file a confidential probe status report within three months.

The report identified the police officers allegedly responsible for implicating Narayanan. The CBI then submitted that something serious had happened.

The Supreme Court on 14 September 2018 ordered a compensation of ₹50 lakh to Narayanan.

The case, which had hit the headlines in 1994, pertained to allegations of transfer of certain confidential documents on India’s space programme to foreign countries by two scientists and four others, including two Maldivian women.

Fauziyya Hassan, one of the two Maldivian women arrested in the case, died in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on 31 August 2022 at the age of 80.

Narayanan expresses happiness

Former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan on Friday, 2 December, expressed happiness over the Supreme Court order quashing a Kerala High Court decision granting anticipatory bail to four people, including a former Director General of Police (DGP), in a case related to the 1994 ISRO espionage.

Narayanan expressed hope that the High Court will come out with a proper judgement.
“I am happy to hear about the Supreme Court order. Now that the matter has been reverted to the High Court, I hope that it will come out with a proper judgement,” Narayanan told PTI.

(With inputs from PTI)