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ISRO espionage: SC to hear on March 11 CBI's plea against anticipatory bail to four

The high court had on August 13 last year granted anticipatory bail to former Gujarat DGP R B Sreekumar, two former police officers of Kerala — S Vijayan and Thampi S Durga, and a retired intelligence official P S Jayaprakash — in connection with the case.

February 25, 2022 / 07:13 PM IST

The Supreme Court Friday said it would hear on March 11 the CBI’s plea against the Kerala High Court order granting anticipatory bail to four persons, including a former Director-General of Police (DGP), in a case about the alleged framing of scientist Nambi Narayanan in the 1994 ISRO espionage case.

The high court had on August 13 last year granted anticipatory bail to former Gujarat DGP R B Sreekumar, two former police officers of Kerala — S Vijayan and Thampi S Durga, and a retired intelligence official P S Jayaprakash — in connection with the case.

Sreekumar was then the Deputy Director of the Intelligence Bureau.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told a bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and C T Ravikumar that he needed some time as the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) S V Raju assisting the court in the matter is in some personal difficulty and some documents are still awaited.

"I need some time. Mr. Raju (ASG) is assisting your lordships. There is some personal difficulty on his part and otherwise, also, some documents are awaited," Mehta told the bench.

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He requested the apex court to post the matter after two weeks.

The bench said the matter would be heard on March 11.

The CBI had earlier told the apex court that a grant of anticipatory bail might derail the investigation in the case.

The CBI had said that it has found in its probe that some scientists were tortured and framed in the matter due to which development of the cryogenic engine was hit and this led to India’s space programme going back by almost one or two decades.

The investigating agency had earlier alleged that there was a clear indication that the accused were part of a team, which had ulterior motives to torpedo the attempts of the ISRO for manufacturing the cryogenic engine.

While granting anticipatory bail to these accused persons, the high court had said, "There is not even a scintilla of evidence regarding the petitioners being influenced by any foreign power so as to induce them to hatch a conspiracy to falsely implicate the scientists of the ISRO with the intention to stall the activities of the ISRO with regard to the development of the cryogenic engine.”

It had said unless there are specific materials regarding their involvement, prima facie, it cannot be said that they were acting against the interests of the country.

The CBI has registered a case against 18 persons for various alleged offences, including criminal conspiracy, in connection with the arrest and detention of former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan in the espionage case.

The case, which had hit the headlines in 1994, pertained to allegations of transfer of certain confidential documents on India’s space programme to foreign countries by two scientists and four others, including two Maldivian women.

Narayanan, who was given a clean chit by the CBI, had earlier said that the Kerala police had "fabricated" the case and the technology he was accused to have stolen and sold in the 1994 case did not even exist at that time.

The CBI, in its probe, had said that the then top police officials in Kerala were responsible for Narayanan’s illegal arrest.

The apex court had on September 14, 2018, appointed a three-member committee, while directing the Kerala government to cough up Rs 50 lakh compensation for compelling Narayanan to undergo "immense humiliation”.

Terming the police action against the ex-scientist of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) as a "psycho-pathological treatment", the apex court had in September 2018 said that his "liberty and dignity", basic to his human rights, were jeopardised as he was taken into custody and, eventually, despite all the glory of the past, was compelled to face "cynical abhorrence".



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PTI
first published: Feb 25, 2022 07:13 pm
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