Tamil Nadu

Scientists deserve immunity from arbitrary police action: Nambi Narayanan

Former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan with former CBI Director D. R. Kaarthikeyan at a special screening of Rocketry: The Nambi Effect in Chennai on Saturday.

Former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan with former CBI Director D. R. Kaarthikeyan at a special screening of Rocketry: The Nambi Effect in Chennai on Saturday. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement 

Scientists should be made immune from arbitrary police action such as registration of case or arrest, former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) scientist Nambi Narayanan said here on Sunday. Clear-cut guidelines must be devised for the law enforcement agencies to deal with scientists.

On November 30, 1994, Mr. Nambi Narayanan, then head of ISRO’s Cryogenic Division, was arrested by the Kerala police on the charge that he had traded the country’s space secrets to foreign agents. It took more than two decades for him to prove his innocence in the fabricated spy scandal case. He was here for a special screening of Rocketry: The Nambi effect, a film based on his life.

“I think the scientific community needs some kind of immunity from such action. It is not just ISRO...scientists working in the Department of Science and Technology, the Department of Atomic Energy and others too. As part of their job, they travel a lot... They have to be protected from random police action...else you can go on booking people and put them behind the bars,” he said.

International conspiracy

Mr. Nambi Narayanan felt that there was a possibility of an international plot in the case against him. The Americans were not interested in India getting the cryogenic technology. They said the India-Russian contract should be scrapped. His arrest came at a time when there was a political move to bring down the then Kerala Chief Minister, K. Karunakaran, and two Maldivian women were detained for overstaying. “All these things are independent links, but, unfortunately, they got linked in some manner. There is certainly a possibility of an international conspiracy, and it should be probed,” he told  The Hindu.

But for the case, ISRO would have got the cryogenic technology much earlier, enhancing India’s ability to lift a higher payload. That would have been a great business opportunity to bring in a lot of money. “We are talking about a time frame of close to three decades, which is a very big period.”

Asked if his penchant for liquid fuel and cryogenic technology faded, Mr. Nambi said his priorities certainly changed after the arrest. “My priority was to come out clean, and it took more than 23 years. Though I returned to ISRO, I was put on a desk job. I think it was appropriate to do that... I would not have been in a commanding position with the allegations under investigation.”

He agreed to Rocketry because he wanted people to know his story. “Though it is known through court judgments, the clarity was not there with respect to my contributions, sufferings and why I got the Padma Bhushan award... I wanted the truth to be told in clear terms in a language understood by all. Today, I feel it has a tremendous impact on the minds of people.”

The former CBI Director, D.R. Kaarthikeyan, who organised the special screening of the film, was called by the CBI headquarters for opinion during the course of the investigation of the spy case. He was then heading the Special Investigation Team that probed the assassination of the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

“I spent a few hours with Mr. Nambi Narayanan who was in our custody in Chennai. I had no hesitation in reporting to the CBI headquarters that Mr. Nambi was not only innocent of the charges alleged against him but was a noble person too,” Mr. Karthikeyan said.

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Printable version | Aug 1, 2022 10:54:22 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/scientists-deserve-immunity-from-arbitrary-police-action-nambi-narayanan/article65707805.ece