ISRO spy case: CBI probe into FIR would proceed in accordance with law, says SC

CBI has registered FIR against former Kerala police officers, who allegedly framed space scientist Nambi Narayanan in the ISRO espionage case of 1994, says court.

Updated - July 26, 2021 01:16 pm IST

Published - July 26, 2021 12:40 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Space scientist Nambi Narayanan. File photo

Space scientist Nambi Narayanan. File photo

The Supreme Court on Monday recorded that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered an FIR against former Kerala police officers, who allegedly framed space scientist Nambi Narayanan in the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) espionage case of 1994, after perusing a report filed by the Supreme Court-appointed Justice D.K. Jain Committee.

Also read: Nambi Narayanan | The battles of a space dreamer

A Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar said the CBI investigation into the FIR would proceed in accordance with law. The court said the CBI should not let the committee report either overwhelm or influence its independent investigation. The report was only meant as an “initial basis” for the Supreme Court to better understand the case. The CBI probe should not be coloured by the committee report. The agency should collect its own evidence, the Bench underscored in its order.

The Bench said that while the committee report need not be made public, the FIR registered by the CBI ought to be uploaded on the website. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta orally undertook to publish the FIR in the course of the day. The court said if any of the parties had further grievance in the case, they could approach the Supreme Court.

Also read: The Hindu Explains | Who is Nambi Narayanan?

In April, the court had asked the CBI to look into the committee report on the roles of senior Kerala police officials in the spy case.

Justice Khanwilkar had said the report concerned “serious matter”, warranting a CBI probe. “This requires a thorough investigation,” he had said.

Advocate Amit Sharma, for one of the police officers, retired ADGP Siby Mathews, had complained that while Mr. Narayanan was heard out by the committee, Mr. Mathews was not called or given an opportunity to state his case.

Mr. Narayanan, in his petition before the Supreme Court, had arraigned Mr. Mathews, K.K. Joshwa and S. Vijayan, the latter two had retired in senior positions in the police, as responsible.

The committee was constituted by the Supreme Court in September 2018 to find out “ways and means to take appropriate steps against the erring officials”.

The court had allowed the Central government and the State government to nominate one officer each to the committee. The Centre had appointed a top official, D.K. Prasad, and the Kerala government appointed former additional chief secretary V.S. Senthil.

At the time of his arrest on November 30, 1994, Mr. Narayanan was working on cryogenic engine technology at the ISRO. The police investigators had accused him of passing on documents and drawings of ISRO relating to Viking/Vikas engine technology, cryogenic engine technology and PSLV flight data/drawings to Pakistan.

But the Supreme Court had dismissed the case in 2018 as a criminal frame-up based on “some kind fancy or notion”. It said Mr. Narayanan’s career got “smothered”. The scientist himself had said the prosecution launched by the Kerala police had a “catastrophic effect” on his career and personal life besides setting back the technological advancement in space research.

The CBI, which took over the probe from the Kerala police, had promptly filed a closure report in 1996. But Mr. Narayanan had fought on to bring his accusers to justice.

The Supreme Court, in its 2018 judgment, had called the treatment meted out to the scientist while he was in custody as “psycho-pathological”.

Though it had ordered the Kerala government to pay Mr. Narayanan ₹50 lakh as compensation, the court said mere money was not enough to make up for the torture the scientist had endured for 24 years. An inquiry was called for into the circumstances behind the “frame-up”.

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