New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a CBI probe into the role of Kerala police officers in framing ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan in the 1994 ISRO espionage case.
The court's directive came following its review of the report submitted by a panel headed by former Supreme Court judge DK Jain.which the apex court bench headed by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar accepted on Thursday. The bench also comprised Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Krishna Murari.
The bench then asked the CBI to carry out further investigation. The bench gave the CBI Director to make a detailed probe into the whole affair treating it as very serious warranting CBI enquiry, for which the DK Jain report is to be seen as a preliminary investigation.
The bench gave the CBI three months to file a status report on its investigations. and also ordered that the panel's report should not be published and be kept confidential in a sealed cover.
During the hearing, Nambi Narayanan had sought access to the DK Jain report, but the bench declined to share it with him.
The 79-year-old Narayanan had stood accused, and defamed, in a case allegedly framed by Kerala's police implicating Nambi Narayanan along with another senior functionary of ISRO, two Maldivian women and a businessman, in a story of espionage for Pakistan in 1994. The inglorious case then had also caused much political turmoil and resulted in even the resignation of the then Congress chief minister K Karunakaran, who was in charge of the home portfolio at the time of the incidents.
While appointing the panel, the apex court had directed the Kerala government to pay Rs 50 lakh compensation to Narayanan for causing him immense humiliation.
In 2018, a bench of the then Chief Justice Dipak Misra decided to appoint a committee under Jain and asked the Centre and the Kerala government to name one person each to the committee. While the Centre appointed a top official -- D.K. Prasad, the Pinarayi Vijayan government appointed former Additional Chief Secretary V.S. Senthil.
The ISRO spy case surfaced in 1994 when Narayanan was arrested on charges of espionage along with another senior official of ISRO, two Maldivian women and a businessman.
The CBI subsequently held that the then top police officials in Kerala were responsible for Narayanan's illegal arrest. The panel examined the circumstances leading to Narayanan's arrest. The allegation against Narayanan was that he managed to transfer confidential documents on India's space program to foreign countries.
Narayanan had maintained that Kerala police fabricated the case and the technology he was accused of having stolen and sold in the 1994 case did not even exist at that time.
At the time of his arrest in November 1994, Narayanan was working on cryogenic engine technology at ISRO. The investigators had accused him of passing on documents and drawing of the ISRO aout Viking/Vikas engine technology, cryogenic engine technology and PSLC flight data and drawings to Pakistan.
But after examination the Supreme Court in 2018 dismissed the case as a fabrication based on 'some kind of fancy or notion' and concluded that the it had smothered the career of Narayanan.
Meanwhile, former Additional DGP Sibi Mathews, who is accused by Nambi Narayanan for having the key coercive role in charging him in the case, pleaded through his attorney Amit Sharma that the report of Jain committee was prepared without giving him a hearing while Nambi Narayanan was heard out. Justice Khanwilkar reacted that the accused need not be heard before the offence was registered.
The other Kerala officials arraigned in the DK Jain Committee were KK Joshwa and former SP S Vijayan as responsible for the espionage case.