Panel submits report in SC in ISRO espionage case


Retired Supreme Court judge Justice D K Jain headed panel, formed in Septmber 2018 by the top court to probe the role of Kerala police officers in wrongful arrest of ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan in a 1994 espionage case, has submitted its report in a sealed cover. However, a source confirmed that the findings of the report are not known yet.

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, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud 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 program was allegedly transferred to foreign countries.

Incidentally this case took place when the factional feud in the Congress party between the K. Karunakaran and the A.K. Antony factions led by Oommen Chandy was at its zenith. Karunakaran had to quit the office in 1995 after it was found out that he was shielding his close aide and senior police officer Raman Srivastava, who later became the state police chief and after retirement became the advisor to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

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.

Narayanan moved the top court challenging Kerala High Court judgement. In its verdict, the apex court had said, “We think that obtaining factual scenario calls for constitution of a committee to find out ways and means to take appropriate steps against the erring officials.”

The top court said the “entire prosecution” initiated by the state police was malicious, which caused tremendous harassment and immeasurable anguish to Narayanan. The top court noted that fundamental right of life and personal liberty of Narayanan was “gravely affected”.