Former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan. Photo: Screengrab vis YouTube
New Delhi: A high-level probe panel appointed by the Supreme Court to take erring cops to task for causing “tremendous harassment” and “immeasurable anguish” to ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan in the 1994 espionage case has submitted its report to the apex court, sources said.
The SC had on September 14, 2018 appointed the three-member panel headed by its former judge D.K. Jain while directing the Kerala government to cough up Rs 50 lakh as compensation for compelling Narayanan to undergo “immense humiliation”.
The scientist was arrested when the Congress was heading the government in Kerala. The panel, after completing its investigation, submitted its report in a sealed cover to the apex court recently.
The CBI, in its probe, had held that the then top police officials in Kerala were responsible for Narayanan’s illegal arrest.
The case also had its political fallout, with a section in the Congress targeting the then chief minister, late K. Karunakaran over the issue, leading to his resignation eventually.
Over a period of almost two-and-a-half years, the panel headed by Justice Jain examined the circumstances leading to Narayanan’s arrest. The findings of the report are not yet known.
The espionage case, which made headlines in 1994, pertained to allegations of transfer of certain confidential documents on India’s space programme to foreign countries by two scientists and four others, including two Maldivian women.
The 79-year-old former scientist, who was given a clean chit by the CBI, maintained that the Kerala Police had “fabricated” the case and the technology he was accused to have stolen and sold in the 1994 case did not even exist at that time.
Narayanan had approached the apex court against a Kerala high court judgment that said “no action needed to be taken” against former DGP Siby Mathews, who was then heading the SIT probe team, two retired superintendents of police, K.K. Joshua and S. Vijayan, and the then deputy director, Intelligence Bureau, R.B. Shreekumar, who were later held responsible by the CBI for the scientist’s illegal arrest.
The apex court said in its judgment that to obtain a factual scenario, a committee needed to be constituted to find out ways and means to take appropriate steps against the erring officials.
“The criminal law was set in motion without any basis. It was initiated, if one is allowed to say, on some kind of fancy or notion,” a bench headed by the then chief justice of India Dipak Misra had said.
“We are of the view that the appellant was arrested and he has suffered custody for almost 50 days. His arrest has been seriously criticised in the closure report of the CBI. From the aforesaid report, the harassment and mental torture faced by the appellant is obvious,” the bench had added.
The judgment had said the “entire prosecution” initiated by the state police was “malicious and it has caused tremendous harassment and immeasurable anguish” to Narayanan. “It can be stated with certitude” that the fundamental right of life and personal liberty of Narayanan was “gravely affected”, the top court said.
The CBI, while giving a clean chit to the scientist, had said that Siby Mathews had left “the entire investigation to the IB, surrendering his duties” and ordered the indiscriminate arrest of the scientist and others without adequate evidence.
The case had caught attention in October 1994, when Maldivian national Rasheeda was arrested in Thiruvananthapuram for allegedly obtaining secret drawings of ISRO rocket engines, apparently with the intention to sell them to Pakistan.
Narayanan, the then director of the cryogenic project at ISRO, was arrested along with the then ISRO deputy director D. Sasikumaran, and Fousiya Hasan, also a Maldivian and friend of Rasheeda.
The apex court had termed the police action against the ex ISRO scientist a “psycho-pathological treatment”.
It had said that his “liberty and dignity”, which are fundamental aspects of human rights, were jeopardised as he was taken into custody and, eventually, despite all the glory of the past, was compelled to face “cynical abhorrence”.
Awarding Rs 50 lakh to Narayanan, which was to be paid by the state government, the top court said it was meant to compensate for the scientist’s suffering, anxiety and the treatment meted out to him.
The apex court had said the “reputation of an individual is an insegregable facet of his right to life with dignity” and had rejected the plea of the Kerala government that due to the lapse of time, no inquiry or subsequent actions were needed to be taken against the erring officials.
The Supreme Court had accepted Narayanan’s plea that the authorities who were responsible for causing such a “harrowing effect” on his mind should face “legal consequences”.