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ISRO espionage case: Supreme Court directs CBI probe into role of erring cops in case involving Nambi Narayanan

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Supreme Court of IndiaSupreme Court of IndiaSupreme Court of India

Fake ISRO espionage case: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe the role of erring police officials in the 1994 espionage case relating to top ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan. A high-level committee was set up to look into the role of the police officials in the case. The three-member committee headed by former top court judge Justice (retd) DK Jain recently  submitted its findings. The court today ordered that the report of the committee be handed over to the central investigating agency, which will conduct further probe.

The court also ordered that the report be kept in sealed cover and it should not be published. Former DGP Siby Mathews, who was then heading the SIT probe team, submitted that he was not given an opportunity by the committee to make his point. The court rejected his contention saying the committee was not to adjudicate the matter but it had to go through circumstantial evidence and form a prima facie view on the acts of omission and commission of erring officials.

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The apex court’s order came on a plea filed by the Centre, which had sought consideration of the report submitted by the committee regarding the role of police officials in the entire fake espionage case against Narayanan. Narayanan had been acquitted of all charges and was awarded Rs 50 lakh compensation by the SC in 2018. While ordering the compensation, the court had also formed the committee to look into the roles of police officials who probed Nambi Narayanan.

According to reports, Nambi Narayanan was subjected to intense torture and harassment while in police custody. He himself has narrated his ordeal during investigations by state police officials who were quite harsh on the top scientist. In 2018, when the court ordered compensation of what Narayanan had to go through, the court said that the state had to pay for compelling the scientist to undergo “immense humiliation”. It also set up the committee to take steps against the officials for causing ‘tremendous harassment’ and ‘immeasurable anguish’ to Narayanan.

The court had termed the police action against Narayanan as “psycho-pathological treatment”. The court said that Narayanan’s liberty and dignity, the basic to his human rights, were jeopardised as he was taken into custody and, eventually despite all the glory of the past was compelled to face “cynical abhorrence”. The alleged spying case against Narayanan surfaced in 1994 following the arrest of a Maldivian national for allegedly obtaining secret drawings of rocket engines from ISRO to sell to Pakistan. Narayanan was the director of the cryogenic project at ISRO at that time.

Narayanan was accused of transfer of the documents and was arrested along with the then ISRO Deputy Director D Sasikumaran. However, the CBI did not find anything against the scientist and gave him a clean chit. The agency in its probe had held that the then top police officials in Kerala were responsible for Narayanan’s illegal arrest.

Narayanan had earlier said that the Kerala police had ‘fabricated’ the case and the technology he was accused to have stolen and sold did not even exist at that time. He demanded action against former DGP Siby Mathews and two retired superintendents of police K K Joshua and S Vijayan. Joshua and Vijayan were held responsible by the CBI for Narayanan’s illegal arrest. The SC in its order had said that there can be no scintilla of doubt that Narayanan had been compelled to undergo immense humiliation.

“The lackadaisical attitude of the state police to arrest anyone and put him in police custody has made the appellant to suffer the ignominy…the dignity of a person gets shocked when psycho-pathological treatment is meted out to him. A human being cries for justice when he feels that the insensible act has crucified his self-respect,” the apex court had said.

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