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Thursday, October 21, 2021

ISRO case: CBI should collate material on its own, not proceed only on basis of panel’s report, says SC

A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Sanjiv Khanna, which was informed that CBI had registered the FIR in the matter, said, “...after registration of FIR, the investigating agency must collate material on its own and not proceed merely on the basis of the report submitted by Justice D K Jain Committee”.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: July 27, 2021 3:10:24 am
Nambi Narayanan, 79, had been acquitted in the matter and was eventually awarded Rs 50 lakh compensation by the Supreme court. (File)

The Supreme Court on Monday said the CBI “must collect material on its own” to proceed against those accused of framing former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan in the spying case, and not merely rely on the inquiry report submitted by the Justice D K Jain committee, appointed by the court.

A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Sanjiv Khanna, which was informed that CBI had registered the FIR in the matter, said, “…after registration of FIR, the investigating agency must collate material on its own and not proceed merely on the basis of the report submitted by Justice D K Jain Committee”.

“In other words,” the bench added, “that report need not be made the sole basis to proceed against the respondents or persons named as accused in the FIR now registered by CBI.”

Twenty-four years after Narayanan’s arrest on espionage charges, which were later thrown out by a court, the apex court had, in September 2018, awarded him compensation of Rs 50 lakh for the “ignominy” and “immense humiliation” he had suffered.

The court also set up a committee headed by Justice Jain to “find out ways and means to take appropriate steps against the erring” police personnel who allegedly framed Narayanan in what came to be known as the ISRO spy scandal — he used to head the cryogenic project at ISRO.

The 2018 order came on a petition by Narayanan, challenging Kerala High Court’s decision to overturn a trial court order directing action against the erring officers.

The committee subsequently submitted its report and, in April 2021, the SC entrusted further probe into the matter to CBI and directed the agency to file a report in three months. The court said that the “report says it’s a serious matter which needs deeper investigation”.

On Monday, the SC bench said, “As the Committee report has been finally acted upon, we accede to the request of Mr S V Raju, learned Additional Solicitor General, that the Committee constituted under the orders of this Court may cease to function hereafter.”

The agency sought the court’s permission to upload the FIR, which the bench granted.

The bench added, “Now that the CBI has finally decided to proceed in the matter, further steps after registration of FIR must follow as per law and no directions are required from this Court in that regard.”

The respondents, or those named as accused in the FIR, “can take recourse to all permissible remedies available to them in law, which will have to be decided on its own merits and in accordance with law”, it said.

In October-November 1994, Kerala Police had arrested two Maldives women — Mariam Rasheeda and Fousiya Hasan — and claimed to have uncovered a spy ring in ISRO and leak of sensitive documents. The case was initially investigated by S Vijayan, Inspector, Special Branch, Thiruvananthapuram. Subsequently, the case was taken over by a Special Investigation Team headed by then DIG (Crime) Siby Mathews.

Nambi Narayanan was arrested on November 30, 1994 and the investigation was handed over to CBI on December 4, 1994. In its report to the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Ernakulam, the CBI stated that “evidence collected indicated that the allegations of espionage against the scientists at ISRO, including the appellant herein, were not proved and were found to be false”.

This report was accepted by the court and all the accused were discharged on May 2, 1996. But in a separate secret report to the Centre and state government, the CBI detailed the role played by officials of the IB in the matter.

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