ISRO espionage: SC to hear on Feb 25 CBI plea against anticipatory bail to four


PTI, Jan 29, 2022, 7:57 PM IST

The Supreme Court would hear on February 25 the appeal of CBI challenging the anticipatory bail granted to four persons, including a former Director-General of Police (DGP), who are accused of framing scientist Nambi Narayanan in the 1994 ISRO espionage case.

The probe agency sought adjournment of the hearing and four weeks’ time for filing rejoinder to the replies filed by the accused police officers to its appeal challenging the grant of anticipatory bail, saying that some of its officials dealing with the case were down with COVID-19.

The hearing on the CBI’s special leave petition (SLP) against the Kerala High Court order granting pre-arrest bail to senior police and intelligence officers was listed for hearing on Friday before a bench comprising justices A M Khanwilkar and C T Ravikumar.

The bench has now listed the case for hearing on February 25.

Earlier in November last year, the top court had agreed to hear the CBI’s appeal and had issued notices to R B Sreekumar (former DGP of Gujarat), Vijayan, Thampi S Durga Dutt, and P S Jayaprakash.

The high court had on August 13, last year granted anticipatory bail to the four accused.

The CBI said that it has found that some scientists were tortured and framed in the matter due to which the development of the cryogenic engine was hit and this led to India’ space programme going back by almost one or two decades.

The investigating agency had earlier alleged that there was a clear indication that the accused were part of a team, which had ulterior motives to torpedo the attempts of the ISRO for manufacturing the cryogenic engine.

While granting anticipatory bail to these persons, the high court had said, ”There is not even a scintilla of evidence regarding the petitioners being influenced by any foreign power so as to induce them to hatch a conspiracy to falsely implicate the scientists of the ISRO with the intention to stall the activities of the ISRO with regard to the development of the cryogenic engine.” It had said unless there are specific materials regarding their involvement, prima facie, it cannot be said that they were acting against the interests of the country.

The CBI has registered a case against 18 persons for various alleged offences, including criminal conspiracy, in connection with the arrest and detention of former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan in the espionage case.

The case, which had hit the 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.

Narayanan, who was given a clean chit by the CBI, had earlier said 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.

The CBI, in its probe, had said that the then top police officials in Kerala were responsible for Narayanan’s illegal arrest.

The apex court had on September 14, 2018, appointed a three-member committee, while directing the Kerala government to cough up Rs 50 lakh compensation for compelling Narayanan to undergo ”immense humiliation”.

Terming the police action against the ex-scientist of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) as a ”psycho-pathological treatment”, the apex court had in September 2018 said that his ”liberty and dignity”, basic to his 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”.

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