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Once accused of being a spy to Padma Bhushan; Finally recognition to Nambi Narayanan

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New Delhi, Jan 26: He was once accused in an espionage case and put behind the bars. He and four others were arrested on charges of leaking vital defence secrets including drawings of ISRO's Vikas engine and cryogenic technology. And in the list of Padma award winners that was announced yesterday, former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan is being bestowed with the third highest civilian honour of the country.

File photo of Nambi Narayanan

The scientist was instrumental in developing the Vikas engine that would be used for the first PSLV that India launched. But, Nambi Narayanan, who was falsely implicated in the ISRO spy case, was accused of selling state secrets comprising confidential test data from rocket and satellite launches. He was arrested in December 1994 and charged with espionage.

With his name featuring in the list of 18 Padma Bhushan awardees announced by the government on Friday, Narayanan's life seems to have come a full circle.

"Of course, I am happy. I became a victim of spying, I became more popular in that sense, in a way people started sympathising with me. This award gives me a feeling that my contribution has been recognised," he told news agency ANI.

ISRO spy case: Arrest of scientist was unnecessary says SC

However, the arrest in 1994 brought his career to a standstill and mental agony to him and his family. Narayanan, who was a senior scientist at ISRO, was in charge of the cryogenics division and was leading the development of the liquid technology - a key technology in rocket propulsion that is being deployed in GSLV when he was arrested in December 1994 in the infamous ISRO espionage case.

Following his arrest by the Kerala police, the case was transferred to the Intelligence Bureau (IB) for investigation and was in custody for 50 days. After his release, the scientist claimed that the IB officials, who interrogated him, wanted him to testify falsely against some of his superiors.

The Supreme Court in September last year held that former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan was "arrested unnecessarily, harassed and subjected to mental cruelty" in a 1994 espionage case and ordered a probe into the role of Kerala police officers.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra awarded Rs 50 lakh compensation to 76-year-old Narayanan for being subjected to mental cruelty in the case.

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