SC asks CBI to probe wrongful arrests in ISRO spying case

Satya Prakash
Today News Online Service
New Delhi, April 15

The Supreme Court on Thursday accepted the Justice DK Jain Committee report on lapses on the part of Kerala Police officers in the ISRO spying case and asked the Centre to hand it over to the CBI for further probe.

A Bench led by Justice AM Khanwilkar — which asked the CBI to submit its report in three months — made it clear that the committee’s report can’t be made public and can’t be shared with anyone, including former ISRO scientist S Nambi Narayanan.

It said the report’s copies can’t be given even to officials named in it or those named in the petition.

Appointed by the top court in 2018, the committee is said to have found “acts of omission and commission” by “responsible officials” in Kerala Government in the ISRO spying case, which was proved to be a false case.

The Bench directed the CBI to treat the Jain Committee report as a preliminary inquiry report and proceed further.

It said the private respondents were free to exercise all legal options available to them.

Almost two-and-a-half-years after the Supreme Court asked it to look into the lapses on the part of the Kerala Police officers in wrongfully arresting scientist S Nambo Narayanan in the 1994 ISRO spy scandal, the Justice DK Jain Committee had submitted its report to the Supreme Court recently in a sealed cover.

The three-man Committee also included DK Prasad and VS Senthil — representing the Centre and the Kerala Government respectively.

The Jain Committee inquired into the roles of police officers Siby Mathews, KK Joshua and S Vijayan in wrongfully framing Narayanan — a Padma Bhushan awardee.

The Centre has sought strict action against delinquent police officials who had framed Narayanan in the case.

The Supreme Court had on September 14, 2018, ordered the Kerala Government to pay a compensation of Rs 50 Lakh to the former ISRO scientist whose life got ruined after he was falsely implicated in the ISRO spying scandal.

It had set up a three-member panel led by Justice (Retd) DK Jain “to find out ways and means to take appropriate steps against the erring (Kerala Police) officials.”

“The entire prosecution initiated by the State police was malicious and it has caused tremendous harassment and immeasurable anguish to the appellant said the Bench which had reserved its verdict on July 10 on his petition seeking action against former Kerala DGP Siby Mathews and other police officers who allegedly falsely implicated him in the case.

“The liberty and dignity of the appellant which is basic to his human rights were jeopardized as he was taken into custody and, eventually, despite all the glory of the past, he was compelled to face cynical abhorrence” the top court had said granting him compensation for “the suffering, anxiety and the treatment” meted out to him that withered away his fundamental right to life and liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Narayanan (79) had challenged a Kerala High Court verdict that said no action was needed against former DGP Mathews and two retired Superintendents of Police, K K Joshua and S Vijayan for his illegal arrest.

The Kerala police had arrested Mariam Rasheeda — a Maldivian woman on October 20, 1994, for overstaying in India after the expiry of her visa. It turned into a sex-spy scandal allegedly involving two senior ISRO scientists, some businessmen and others. They were accused of passing on ISRO’s cryogenic programme secrets to the women who in turn supplied the same to Russia and Pakistan’s ISI.

In 1996, the CBI probe cleared all the accused. It concluded that the entire scandal was fabricated by Kerala Police officers who had investigated the case. All the accused were discharged in May 1996. Along with the closure report, the CBI had also sent a confidential report indicting the state police officials.

But following a change of guard in Kerala, the state government withdrew the consent given to the CBI to probe the case and asked the state police to re-investigate it.

However, the Supreme Court in April 1998 quashed the state government’s decision and all the accused were freed. Rasheeda too was released in 2001. The Kerala High Court had in September 2012 ordered the state government to pay Rs 10 lakh as interim relief to Narayanan.

Acting on his petition, the Kerala High Court had in October 2014 ordered action against the state police officials based on the CBI’s confidential report. But a Division Bench of the High Court reversed the order in March 2015.

It’s this Division Bench verdict that Narayanan had challenged in the top court.

The Supreme Court had said, “…there can be no scintilla of doubt that the appellant, a successful scientist having national reputation, has been compelled to undergo immense humiliation. The lackadaisical attitude of the State police to arrest anyone and put him in police custody has made the appellant suffer the ignominy.

“The dignity of a person gets shocked when psycho-pathological treatment is meted out to him. A human being cries for justice when he feels that the insensible act has crucified his self-respect. That warrants grant of compensation under the public law remedy, it had said.

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