ISRO espionage case: SC cancels anticipatory bail to ex-officials, asks HC to decide afresh
New Delhi, December 2: The Supreme Court on Friday set aside the Kerala High Court order granting anticipatory bail to persons in connection with the 1994 ISRO espionage case relating to the framing of alleged scientist Nambi Narayanan.
A bench headed by Justice MR Shah remitted the bail applications back to the Kerala High Court and asked it to decide it as early as possible, within a period of four weeks. The apex court also granted protection from arrest to the accused for five weeks as an interim arrangement till the High Court finally decides the matter.
The CBI had challenged the Kerala High Court order granting anticipatory bail to five persons. The apex court bench reserved the order on November 28.
The Kerala High Court had granted anticipatory bail to four accused -- the former Gujarat Director-General of Police (DGP) RB SreeKumar, former Kerala Director General of Police (DGP) Siby Mathews, two former police officers of Kerala S Vijayan and Thampi S Durga Dutt, and retired intelligence official PS Jayaprakash -- in connection with the case.
Seeking cancellation of anticipatory bail granted them, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had said the grant of anticipatory bail might derail the investigation in the case.
Earlier CBI had told the apex court that it has found in its probe that some scientists were tortured and framed in the matter due to which development of the cryogenic engine was hit and this led to India's space programme going back by almost one or two decades.
Opposing the bail granted to the accused, CBI had said it is a "very serious matter" and there may be a larger conspiracy at the behest of foreign hands which is being investigated.
The CBI had 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 Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for manufacturing the cryogenic engine.
It had registered a case against 18 persons for various offences, including criminal conspiracy, in connection with the arrest and detention of Narayanan, who was accused of spying in 1994.
The case relates 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.
CBI had earlier given a clean chit to Narayanan and said that the Kerala police had "fabricated" the case. The investigating agency stated that the technology ex-scientist was accused to have stolen and sold in the 1994 case did not even exist at that time and then top police officials in Kerala were responsible for his illegal arrest.
On September 14, 2018, the top court had appointed a three-member committee and directed the Kerala government to give Rs 50 lakh compensation to Narayanan for compelling him to undergo immense humiliation.
Terming the police action against Narayanan as a "psycho-pathological treatment", the top court had also 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".