ISRO espionage case: Centre seeks urgent hearing, SC to hear matter next week


The Centre on Monday requested the Supreme Court to open the sealed cover report of a panel headed by former top court judge D.K. Jain, formed in September 2018 by the court to probe the role of Kerala police officers in the wrongful arrest of ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan in a 1994 espionage case.

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, requested the top court to take up the report for passing appropriate orders on Tuesday. Mehta submitted that the matter is of national importance.

A bench headed by headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde said there is no doubt that the matter is important, but there is no urgency in hearing it. The top court, however, agreed to hear the matter next week.

79-year-old Narayanan waged a legal battle against the Kerala police officers who accused him of being a Pakistan spy in 1994. Besides appointing the panel, the top court had directed the Kerala government to pay Rs 50 lakh compensation for causing immense humiliation to Narayanan.

In 2018, a bench of the then Chief Justice Dipak Misra decided to appoint a committee under Jain and asked the Centre and the Kerala government to name one person each to the committee under Jain. While the Centre appointed a top official — D.K. Prasad, the Pinarayi Vijayan government appointed former Additional Chief Secretary V. S. Senthil.

The ISRO spy case surfaced in 1994 when Narayanan was arrested on charges of espionage along with another senior official of ISRO, two Maldivian women and a businessman.

The CBI had held that the then top police officials in Kerala were responsible for Narayanan’s illegal arrest. The panel examined the circumstances leading to Narayanan’s arrest. It was alleged that confidential documents on India’s space programme was allegedly transferred to foreign countries.

Narayanan had maintained that Kerala police fabricated the case and the technology he was accused to have stolen and sold in 1994 case did not even exist at that time.