With the Supreme Court forming a committee to inquire into the role of police officers in the conspiracy against former ISRO scientist Namby Narayanan, the spotlight is on former Kerala DGP Siby Mathews and retired Superintendents of Police (SPs) K K Joshwa and S Vijayan.
In 1996, the CBI had recommended action against Mathews and others for their “unprofessional conduct of the investigation into the espionage case”. After explanations from the officers, then Kerala chief secretary had, in 1997, said that no action was required.
On June 29, 2011, then CM Oommen Chandy had ratified the chief secretary’s report. The state government had contended that neither the chief judicial magistrate’s court, which accepted the CBI’s closure reported in the case, nor the Supreme Court had issued any direction to take action against the officers.
On Friday, 22 years since the CBI’s recommendation, the Supreme Court ordered a probe against the officers.
Then a DIG, Mathews headed the special investigation team probing the case. The CBI report said Mathews had “indiscriminately” ordered arrest of the scientists and others without a thorough interrogation or adequately verifying their disclosures. It said Mathews and his team had not recovered any evidence from ISRO, or money allegedly paid to the accused by their “foreign contacts”.
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Regarded as an honest and efficient IPS officer, Mathews had probed several high-profile cases in his three-decade career. Apart from the ISRO case, he had faced heat for the way he had handled the sex scandal — Suryanelli case — in which a minor girl was exploited by 40 people in 1996.
Vijayan, who retired as SP, had been a circle inspector with state intelligence in 1994 when the ISRO case emerged. Vijayan had attended the visa extension request of Maldives women Mariyam Rasheeda and Fauziya Hassan, who were alleged to have contacted ISRO space scientists suspected of having transferred technology to Pakistan.
Vijayan reportedly advised Rasheeda to get an air ticket home – she bought one for October 17, 1994. When she approached Vijayan again, he reportedly seized the ticket and questioned the women. The CBI report said seizure of the ticket was not shown even after the case was registered. The agency noted that Vijayan had obstructed Rasheeda’s return to Maldives, which led to the spy case.
The other retired SP, Joshwa, then a deputy police superintendent, had recorded that the Maldivian women came to India to collect information for some foreign agents. The CBI had found that Joshwa did not mention what valuable information was passed on to foreign countries. The CBI found Narayanan was tortured in police custody and had been given medical treatment, but Joshwa suppressed this from case diaries and records.