The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on November 22 argued before the Supreme Court that there may be a “larger conspiracy involving foreign powers” in the ISRO frame-up case, which stalled the technology to develop the cryogenic engine by decades.
A Bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and C.T. Ravikumar issued notice to former police and Intelligence Bureau officials, arraigned in the case, who were granted anticipatory bail by the Kerala High Court.
The CBI has challenged the bail granted at the “ threshold” of the investigation.
Listing the case for hearing on November 29, the court, however, did not entertain a request for a stay of the High Court order.
“Where is the question of stay when we have issued notice and is going to hear the case on November 29,” Justice Khanwilkar addressed Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju, appearing for the CBI.
“The frame-up led to the arrest of scientists. The technology for the cryogenic engine was deliberately stalled for at least two decades... May be a larger conspiracy involving foreign powers... Grant of anticipatory bail at the threshold may harm the investigation,” Mr. Raju submitted.
The High Court had granted anticipatory bail to P.S. Jayaprakash, Thampi S. Durga Dutt, Vijayan and R.B. Sreekumar.
It had held that the accused “should not be made to face a similar situation of being forced to undergo the ignominy of being incarcerated in the prison for interrogation at this old age after their retirement for an incident that took place a quarter of the century ago.”
The High Court had noted that there was no “indication or material, apart from the rhetoric that a foreign power has a hand in persuading the petitioners,” to implicate the ISRO scientists in the case.
It had said that there was “not even a scintilla of evidence regarding the petitioners being influenced by any foreign power so as to induce them to hatch a conspiracy to falsely implicate the scientists” with the intention to stall the activities of the ISRO regarding the development of cryogenic engine. Unless there were specific materials regarding their involvement, prima facie, it could not be said that the officials were acting against the interest of the country, the court had noted.
The CBI had arraigned 18 people, including the petitioners, as accused in case after a Supreme Court-appointed Justice D.K. Jain Committee found fault with them for booking cases against the scientists.
The committee also found that some of the accused were involved in the deliberate leaking of the information to the media and press to create a narrative implicating the scientists and to arrest them without any material on record to show their involvement in the espionage.
These incidents and the consequent torture of the Nambi Narayanan and K. Chandrasekharan in police custody required a detailed investigation, the committee had indicated.