ISRO spy case: SC judgment will help to change mindset of law enforcement machinery, says Nambi Narayanan

Indian Space Research Organisation, or ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan had waged a legal battle for 22 years for action against three police officers who spoiled his life and career by falsely implicating him in the infamous ISRO espionage case.

However, the Supreme Court has given him more than what he asked for when it constituted a three-member committee headed by retired apex court judge justice DK Jain to ascertain whether action needs to be taken against the erring officials and ordered a compensation of Rs 50 lakh to be paid by those involved in the investigation for his wrongful arrest.

Former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan speaks to media, in Thiruvananthapuram, Friday, 14 September, 2018. PTI

Former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan speaks to media, in Thiruvananthapuram, Friday, 14 September, 2018. PTI

The scientist did not attach much importance to the compensation as he believed that no amount of money can compensate the trauma he and his family underwent since he was arrested on 30 November 1994 and pushed into jail for 50 days.

His lawyer C Unnikrishnan said that the three-member committee constituted by the apex court is a wider canvas where not only the scientist’s plea for action against the officials but also the forces behind them will come under scrutiny.

“It is a landmark judgment. The scientist has got justice with the court constituting the committee under a retired judge to find out the role of the officials. The committee can find out forces if any behind them. The court will then decide what action should be taken,” he added.

The kin of former chief minister late K Karunakaran, who was forced to resign in the wake of the case, are already geared to make use of the opportunity to bring to light the people who used the scandal to oust the leader from power.

Padmaja Venugopal, daughter of Karunakaran said justice in the case will be complete only when politicians who worked behind the curtain are brought to light. She said that she would provide the details of these people if she gets an opportunity to depose before the committee.

“If I am denied the opportunity, I will take legal recourse as I want the soul of my father to feel the justice. I was with him when the drama to drag his name into the scandal unfolded. I know all the people who have pulled the strings. I will reveal their names and what they did before the committee,” said Padmaja, who is an office bearer of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC).

The scientist is least interested in politics. He suspects the involvement of bigger forces behind the case. He had alleged the hands of CIA behind the fabrication of the case in his autobiography Ormakalude Brahmanapadam (Orbit of Memories) published last year.

He alleged that the conspiracy was planned to sabotage India’s rapid progress in developing the cryogenic rocket, an ambitious project of space agency he headed at the time of his arrest. He has even revealed the name of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) official who he claimed had a liaison with the American spy agency.

According to him, Rathan Sehgal, who headed the IB team that investigated the espionage had a close relation with a female CIA spy in the ISRO. He was removed from service after his links with the spy agency was established.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which demolished the case, found that IB was privy to the arrest of the innocent scientists. In its report submitted to the court, the agency said that the IB team had acted unprofessionally.

Though IB officials took custody of the accused for questioning, their revelations were not communicated to the state police. The IB men, who tortured Narayanan while interrogating him, did not submit the interrogation reports as required by the law.

The interrogation reports of four other accused were unsigned and undated due to which the identity of the IB officials who questioned them could not be ascertained. They did not verify the statements of the accused. The CBI felt if the intelligence had done this, it could have cleared the air and saved the reputation of the scientists.

Narayanan said that there was a strong ground to suspect the hands of the CIA behind the case as the US was upset with India’s move to enter into a deal with Russia to develop the cryogenic technology. The Americans scuttled the deal India had reached with Glavkosmos, the Russian space agency, in 1991 to buy seven cryogenic rocket engines along with a complete transfer of technology by imposing sanctions on ISRO and Glavkosmos.

"The ISRO could have developed the cryogenic technology 15 years ago if the deal had materialised. The delay has benefitted the Americans and the French, who had tried to sell their engines to India minus technology. Both of them could be involved in the espionage case or maybe it was neither of them. An investigation is essential to find this out," the scientist said.

He believes that a faction in the Congress party, which was ruling the state then, may have used it to further their agenda to unseat Karunakaran from power. He said that the Congressmen had no role in manufacturing the case.

“It is in the interest of the country to find out who manufactured the false case and what was their motive. We have lost millions of dollars due to the delay in developing the technology,” Narayanan said.

He said that the compensation was secondary to him. However, he said that the officials who trampled with the life of innocents should also have been imposed a fine so that it will be a lesson to their colleagues in the force.

“The police have a feeling that they can get away with anything. This attitude should change. I am sure the Supreme Court judgment would help in changing the mindset of the law enforcement machinery,” he added.

The CBI had recommended action against former director general of police Siby Mathew and two retired superintendents K Joshua and S Vijayan, who were responsible for the arrest of the scientists. While Siby and Vijayan have refused to comment on the verdict, Joshua said he had no role in the arrest of the scientist. He said he had only recorded the case dairy.

Narayanan declared that he has ended the battle. “I have been running after this case for the last 24 years. Now I need to spend some time with my family. I will, therefore, close the chapter here,” he told Firstpost.


Updated Date: Sep 14, 2018 18:55 PM

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