The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday reserved its order for Thursday in an application filed by retired Gujarat DGP RB Sreekumar, seeking transit bail in a case filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) at New Delhi in an alleged espionage case of 1994 involving former ISRO scientist S Nambi Narayan.
During hearing on Wednesday, the court of Justice Vipul Pancholi suggested to advocate MM Tirmizi, representing Sreekumar, to file an application of relief before the Kerala High Court.
Sreekumar, was with the central Intelligence Bureau (IB) in New Delhi between 1987 and 1992 and was with the subsidiary Intelligence Bureau, posted as deputy director at Thiruvananthapuram, between 1992 and 1995.
In October 1994, Maldivian national Rasheeda was arrested in Thiruvananthapuram for allegedly obtaining secret drawings of ISRO rocket engines to sell to Pakistan. Narayanan, the then director of the cryogenic project at ISRO, was arrested along with the then ISRO Deputy Director D Sasikumaran, and Fousiya Hasan, a Maldivian friend of Rasheeda.
At least 11 IB officers deputed to assist Kerala police in the alleged espionage case have been named as accused in the CBI’s FIR. Narayan has accused the officers of torturing him and falsifying records, to implicate him.
While Sreekumar’s application before the Gujarat HC was not heard on merits, additional solicitor general SV Raju, appearing on behalf of CBI, submitted that while Sreekumar must have known about the CBI’s FIR since the first week of July, he had not moved an application for anticipatory bail before the Kerala High Court.
“…this is only whiling away time, presuming that the court will grant him four weeks time. Such type of leniency is not to be shown to a person who is lethargic and who is not taking any action… on this ground alone, transit bail application is not required to be entertained. He was granted seven days’ protection, he could have insisted for 14 days’ protection if he wanted more…,” submitted Raju, emphasising the ease of filing a case at any jurisdiction now owing to online filing and virtual proceedings. The Gujarat HC on July 20 had protected Sreekumar from arrest until July 28.
Advocate Tirmizi submitted that Sreekumar was collecting necessary documentary evidence to support his case and will file an application before the Kerala HC soon. Sreekumar, in his petition as well as in a rejoinder affidavit, submitted that he had not met or interrogated S Nambi Narayan.
The Supreme Court in 2018 had ordered for payment of compensation of Rs 50 lakh to Narayan and had ordered constitution of a committee under the chairmanship of retired SC judge DK Jain for obtaining factual report in the case. The report was submitted to the SC in March this year with the observation that an investigation is required to unearth the motive behind the “entire conspiracy/nexus to falsely implicate S Nambi Narayan”, notes an affidavit filed by the CBI on July 27. The agency registered a case in May this year.
The CBI in its affidavit has submitted that Sreekumar knew Narayan as the former was once commandant at VSSC (ISRO) unit in Trivandrum “and they were not on good terms”, while contending Sreekumar’s submission that he never interrogated Narayan as “not tenable”. The SC on July 26 had observed that CBI must collect investigative material on its own and not merely rely on the report of DK Jain committee.