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1994 espionage case: SC asks CBI to probe ‘framing’ of ex-ISRO scientist Nambi Narayan

The apex court was hearing the Centre's plea seeking consideration of the report filed by the committee regarding the role of erring police officials in espionage case relating to Narayanan, who had been acquitted and was eventually awarded Rs 50 lakh compensation by the top court.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: April 16, 2021 4:42:29 am
Nambi Narayanan, isro scandal, isro spy case, isro spy row, Nambi Narayanan isro spy case, supreme courtNambi Narayanan. (Express photo by Anil Sharma/File)

The Supreme Court Thursday asked the CBI to probe the alleged framing of former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan in an espionage case in 1994 and directed the agency to file a report in three months.

Hearing the Centre’s application that cited a report by a three-member panel regarding the role of top police officers in allegedly implicating the scientist, a bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Krishna Murari said the “report says its a serious matter which needs deeper investigation”.

The bench asked the Court’s Registry to forward a copy of the report to the Director or Acting Director of the central probe agency. “CBI will be at liberty to treat the report as a preliminary report,” the bench ordered. It also made it clear that “copy of the report shall not be published or circulated in public” but “will remain in sealed cover and will be given to CBI authorities to proceed in accordance with law”.

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.

The case was initially investigated by S Vijayan, Inspector, Special Branch, Thiruvananthapuram. It was taken over by a Special Investigation Team headed by the then DIG (Crime) Siby Mathews. The probe was handed over to the CBI on December 4, 1994 — the central probe agency had in a report said that allegations of espionage were found to be false. This report was accepted by the court and all accused were discharged on May 2, 1996. But in a separate secret report to the Centre and state government, the CBI pointed to involvement of IB officials.

Appearing for Siby Mathews, who retired as Additional DGP, Advocate Amit Sharma said that the committee had arrived at adverse findings without hearing his client. But the bench said that an accused is not supposed to be heard before the registration of the FIR.

Narayanan had said the Kerala Police had “fabricated” the case. He was awarded a compensation of Rs 50 lakh by an SC bench in September 2018. The order came on his plea challenging the Kerala High Court’s decision to overturn a trial court order directing action against the erring officers.

Nambi welcomes probe, ex-DGP says he not heard

Thiruvananthapuram: Ex-ISRO scientist S Nambi Narayanan on Thursday welcomed the Supreme Court order that the high-level committee report on the role of erring police officials in the spy case be handed over to CBI for further probe.

Welcoming the apex court directive, 78-year-old Narayanan said it was certain that there was conspiracy behind the spy case of 1994 (in which he was falsely implicated). “I would get justice only if the probe into the conspiracy over. I don’t have full details. I welcome the probe. It was a fabricated case. CBI closure report had already stated it. The Supreme Court and the National Human Rights Commission had attested that the case was fabricated. Now, it has to be revealed who has fabricated it,’’ he said.

The CBI, in its closure report in the court, had recommended action against former Kerala cadre IPS official Siby Mathew, who had retired as DGP, and other two other police officials K K Joshwa and S Vijayan, both retired as SP., Siby Mathew had headed the probe before it was taken over by CBI. The CBI had also named former Gujarat cadre DGP R B Sreekumar, who had been with IB as its deputy director and another IB official Mathew John.

Reacting to the SC directive, former DGP Siby Mathew said he was not heard by the high-level committee. “The committee did not hear my side. An IAS officer from Kerala was also in the committee. Yet, the panel did not intimate me about the inquiry. I had acted only as per the law and as per the directive of the senior officials. I hope I will get a chance to present my side in the CBI probe,’’ he said.

BJP welcomed the Supreme Court directive. Party state president K Surendran said people wanted to see the mystery behind the case unravelled. “Narayanan had been a victim of group politics in Congress in Kerala. I hope the role of Congress leaders, including former chief minister Oommen CHandy would come out in the CBI probe. CPI (M) had also been with those who had conspired against the ISRO scientists,’’ he said. —ENS

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