The Supreme Court on November 28, 2022 reserved for orders a series of appeals filed by the CBI challenging anticipatory bail granted to former police officers accused of being part of a conspiracy to frame ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan in an espionage case in 1994.
A Bench led by Justice M.R. Shah indicated that the case may be remanded back to the Kerala High Court for a fresh look. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, for one of the petitioners, urged the court to grant them protection from arrest if the case is sent back to the High Court.
The CBI had challenged the bail given by Kerala High Court to the accused, including former Kerala DGP Siby Mathews. Other accused in the case are namely P.S. Jayaprakash, Thampi S. Durga Dutt, Vijayan and R.B Sreekumar. They had been either former intelligence or senior police officers.
The CBI had claimed the possibility of a “larger conspiracy involving foreign powers”, which had stalled the technology to develop the cryogenic engine by decades. The agency had challenged the bail granted to the accused persons at the very “threshold” of its investigation.
“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,” Additional Solicitor-General S.V. Raju, for the CBI, had submitted at an earlier hearing.
The Kerala High Court, while granting anticipatory bail to Jayaprakash, Thampi, Vijayan and Sreekumar, had observed that there was “not even a scintilla of evidence” to suggest that the former police officers and intelligence officials were 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.
The CBI had arraigned 18 people as accused in the case after the Supreme Court-appointed Justice D.K. Jain Committee found fault with them for booking cases against the scientists.
The committee had also found that some of the accused were involved in the deliberate leakage of information to the media to create a narrative implicating the scientists and to arrest them without any material on record to show their involvement in the alleged espionage.