ISRO spy case: Nambi Narayanan framed by police, says SC

The court observes that the former ISRO scientist was "unnecessarily arrested and harassed" and awards ₹50 lakh in compensation for the "mental cruelty" he suffered all these years.

September 14, 2018 11:17 am | Updated November 28, 2021 09:09 am IST - New Delhi

 Former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan. File.

Former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan. File.

Space may have lost one of India’s best minds, Nambi Narayanan, to a criminal frame-up based on “some kind fancy or notion”, the Supreme Court held on Friday.

Over 24 years after Mr. Narayanan’s career got “smothered” in the infamous ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) spy scandal case, a three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra found him a victim of trumped-up allegations of espionage by the Kerala police.

The court ordered the State of Kerala to pay him Rs. 50 lakh as compensation within the next eight weeks for loss of his fundamental right to live with dignity and self-respect for all these years since his arrest on November 30, 1994.

The Bench agreed with Mr. Narayanan that a mere compensation in money does not serve him complete justice. Mr. Narayanan had argued that 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.

At the time of his arrest on November 30, 1994, Mr. Narayanan was working on cryogenic engine technology at ISRO.


Police accuse him of passing on documents to Pakistan

The police 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. The CBI, which took over the probe from the police, filed a closure report in 1996. Since then, Mr. Narayanan has fought to bring his accusers to justice.

To this end, the Supreme Court Bench, also comprising Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, appointed a three-member committee led by former apex court judge, Justice D.K. Jain, to find "ways and means" to bring to book the erring officials. 

Mr. Narayanan, in his petition before the Supreme Court, has arraigned former Kerala ADGP Siby Mathews and K.K. Joshwa and S. Vijayan, who had retired in senior positions in the police, as responsible.

The Justice Jain committee would have an officer each nominated by the Central and the Kerala governments. The Centre would take care of their facilities and expenses.

Relief after almost a quarter of century

The relief comes almost a quarter of century after Mr. Narayanan began his legal battle.

In his 32-page judgment for the Bench, Chief Justice Misra said Mr. Narayanan’s case was that of a “successful scientist of national reputation compelled to undergo immense humiliation”. The court refers to the treatment meted out to the scientist while he was in custody as “psycho-pathological”.

The court said Mr. Narayanan’s struggle was a prolonged cry for justice.

“The criminal law was set in motion without any basis… His liberty and dignity, basic to his human rights, were jeopardised... Despite all the glory of the past, he was compelled to face cynical abhorrence,” Chief Justice Misra wrote.

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