3 years of torture, 25 years of court case, Rs 50 lakh richer: All about the infamous ISRO spy case

New Delhi: The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the arrest of former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan in the 1994 alleged spy scandal was “needless and unnecessary”, and ordered Rs 50 lakh compensation for the scientist who had accused the police of falsely framing him in the case.

The top court also set up a committee headed by retired Supreme Court judge Justice DK Jain to inquire into the role of Kerala police officials in the arrest of the scientist at Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

Nambi Narayanan, 76, had petitioned the court to seek prosecution of senior police officials for framing him in the alleged spy scandal. Narayanan approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) saying that he had suffered mental agony and torture. The Commission awarded him interim compensation of Rs 10 lakh on March 14, 2001.

The arrest of Nambi Narayanan

The scientist was arrested after the Kerala police arrested Mariam Rasheeda, a Maldivian woman, on October 20, 1994. Though she was arrested for overstaying in India, police later accused her of being involved in a sex-spy scandal.

It was alleged that Rasheeda was the intermediary between the organisation and two more women. She was accused of passing on ISRO’s cryogenic programme secrets to the women, who in turn supplied the same to Russia and Pakistan’s ISI.

Narayanan, who was arrested in the case, had to spend close to two months in jail and later it was found by the CBI that the espionage case was a false one.

The gruelling court case

After two years, the CBI cleared all the accused, who were discharged in May 1996, and also filed a closure report before the court. But a change in the government re-opened the probe. The earlier consent given by the state to the CBI to investigate the case was withdrawn and the Kerala police was asked to hold a fresh inquiry.

In 1998, the Supreme Court quashed the state government’s decision. On Narayanan’s petition, the Kerala high court, in September 2012, ordered the state government to pay Rs 10 lakh as interim relief to the scientist. Later, in October 2014, action was ordered against the errant police officials.

However, a division bench reversed the order in March 2015, which Narayanan challenged before the Supreme Court. His grievance is that despite the CBI probe indicting the police officers, the state has not taken any action against them.

Nambi Narayanan’s reaction

Narayanan welcomed the Supreme Court verdict but stressed there should be a time-frame for the completion of the probe by the court-appointed panel. Reacting to the apex court verdict, the 76-year old he said he felt “better now than earlier”.

On the compensation of Rs 50 lakh, he said officials responsible for his arrest should be made to pay compensation amount and also the fine.

Former DGP Sibi Mathew, who headed the Special Investigation Team that probed the case and arrested Narayanan, did not comment on the SC verdict.

(With inputs from Agencies)