CBI to probe role of Kerala police officials in ISRO espionage case

Their names have come up in Jain committee report for allegedly framing space scientist Nambi Narayanan

May 03, 2021 09:17 pm | Updated 09:17 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, 09/10/2018: Former Scientist Nambi Narayanan. Photo::S. Gopakumar.

Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, 09/10/2018: Former Scientist Nambi Narayanan. Photo::S. Gopakumar.

The Central Bureau of Investigation has registered a case to probe the alleged role of senior Kerala police officials, whose names have come up in the Justice D.K. Jain Committee report for allegedly framing space scientist Nambi Narayanan in the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) espionage case of 1994 .

It is learnt that the police officials mentioned in the report have also been named in the FIR as accused persons. However, the agency has not revealed their identities. “As directed by the Supreme Court, the particulars are not being divulged,” said an official.

Earlier, the Kerala police had registered the first case linked to the espionage allegation on October 20, 1994, against a Maldivian national under the Foreigners Act. They registered the second case under the Official Secrets Act on November 13, 1994, against two Maldivians and others. Both the cases were later handed over to a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the State police.

Closure report

Besides the two foreign nationals, the SIT arrested four more persons, including two scientists then working with the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre of the ISRO. The probe was then transferred to the CBI on December 4, 1994. The CBI, in its closure report, submitted that the espionage charge against the scientists at ISRO, including Mr. Narayanan, was not proved and was found to be false. The court accepted the findings.

Also read: High-level probe panel submits report to SC on Nambi Narayanan's illegal arrest

In a report, the CBI alleged that Siby Mathew, who headed the SIT, did not take adequate steps related to thorough interrogation of the accused persons and the verification of the “so-called disclosure” made by them.

“In fact, he left the entire investigation to IB surrendering his duties. He ordered indiscriminate arrest of the ISRO scientist and others without adequate evidence being on record...,” said a CBI report addressed to the then State Chief Secretary, listing other alleged lapses. Among the other investigating officials were S. Vijayan, the then Inspector, Special Branch; and K.K. Joshwa, the then Deputy Superintendent of Police, CB CID.

Also read: ISRO espionage case: Supreme Court orders CBI to look into Jain panel report

The CBI later submitted in the court that despite having highlighted the lapses, the State government failed to take any action against the erring officials.

Awards compensation

Mr. Narayanan approached the Supreme Court seeking action against such officials. The court, on September 14, 2018, awarded a compensation of ₹50 lakh to him on various counts and also ordered the constitution of a committee for getting the actual scenario and to find out ways for taking appropriate steps against the officials concerned.

“Learned counsel for the respondent no. 4 [CBI] has submitted that the conduct of the police officials is criminal in nature as per the investigation and report submitted by the CBI and the investigation of the CBI had clearly established that the investigation carried out by the State police was full of lapses and also involved employment of illegal means such as criminal torture,” as observed in the 2018 order.

Based on the committee’s report, the Supreme Court on April 15 directed the CBI to proceed in the matter in accordance with law. The agency has to submit its findings within three months.

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