Kerala court says victims of ISRO espionage case will be heard
Thiruvananthapuram, July 12: "Victims" of the 1994 espionage case -- former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan and two Maldives nationals who were arrested back then -- will also be heard prior to arriving at decision on the anticipatory bail plea of former Kerala DGP Siby Mathews, a court here said on Monday.
Mathews has sought anticipatory bail in the case registered by CBI against him and 17 other police officers for offences including criminal conspiracy and kidnapping and fabrication of evidence, under the IPC, in connection with arrest and detention of former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan in the 1994 espionage case.
Principal District and Sessions Judge P Krishnakumar, who heard the matter via video conference, said, "Let them (Narayanan and the two women) be heard. They will be heard. Counsel for the victims are permitted to make submissions."
With the direction, the court listed the matter for physical mode of hearing on July 14.
Mathews had objected to the impleadment applications of Narayanan and the two women -- Mariyam Rasheeda and Fousiya Hasan -- all three of whom have opposed grant of any relief to him.
They have opposed his plea for anticipatory bail on the ground that he was heading the Special Investigation Team (SIT) which had arrested them and allegedly subjected them to custodial violence.
In his anticipatory bail plea, Mathews has claimed he and senior Kerala Police officers were pressurised by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to arrest Narayanan in the espionage case.
He had also claimed cases under the Foreigners Act and the Official Secrets Act were registered against Rasheeda based on the information received from the IB and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) that she had "undesirable connections with some ISRO scientists and her activities were prejudicial to interest and security of India."
Rasheeda was, thereafter, arrested on the instructions of a then senior IB officer, Mathews has claimed.
CBI, last week, had in the Kerala High Court opposed the joint anticipatory bail plea of two former Kerala Police officers, who were part of the SIT involved in the arrest of Narayanan, saying they falsely implicated him in a "concocted case" which led to delay in development of India's cryogenic technology.
It contended in the high court that the plea was moved by the retired Kerala Police officers -- S Vijayan and Thampi S Durga Dutt -- to "scuttle the due process of law" and it was "premature" and "not sustainable".
"It is just being filed with the sole motive to get away from the clutches of law," the agency had said and that it has reason to believe that once the relief was granted to them, they will not cooperate with the probe and "will derail the pace of the investigation."
The Supreme Court had on April 15 ordered that the report of a high-level committee on the role of erring police officials in the espionage case relating to Narayanan begiven to the CBI and directed the agency to conduct further investigation on the issue.
The three-member committee, headed by former apex court judge Justice (retd) D K Jain, was appointed by the top court in 2018 after acquitting Narayanan in the case.
The Supreme Court had also directed the Kerala government to pay Rs 50 lakh as compensation for compelling Narayanan to undergo "immense humiliation".
The espionage case, which had hit the headlines then, pertained to allegations of transfer of certain confidential documents on India's space programme to foreign countries bytwo scientists and four others, including two Maldivian women. The CBI, in its probe back then, had held that the then top police officials in Kerala were responsible for Narayanan's illegal arrest.
The case also had a political fallout, with a section in the Congress targeting the then Chief Minister late K Karunakaran over the issue, that eventually led to his resignation.