The 1994 espionage case that led to Isro scientist Nambi Narayanan's arrest

Updated on Apr 16, 2021 12:29 PM IST

Terming the matter as ‘serious’, the bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar ruled that the matter required ‘deeper investigation’ into the role of the officers responsible for the false implication of the former space scientist.

Former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan speaks to media, in Thiruvananthapuram in this file picture from 2018.(PTI File Photo)
Former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan speaks to media, in Thiruvananthapuram in this file picture from 2018.(PTI File Photo)
By | Written by Shivani Kumar, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the conspiracy behind the alleged framing of former Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) scientist Nambi Narayanan in a 1994 espionage case.

Terming the matter as ‘serious’, the bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar ruled that the matter required ‘deeper investigation’ into the role of the officers responsible for the false implication of the former space scientist.

What was the espionage case?

In 1994, Kerala police arrested Isro scientist Nambi Narayanan for alleged espionage over the allegations of transfer of certain confidential documents on India's space programme to foreign countries.

The case came to the light after a Maldivian national named Rasheeda was arrested in Thiruvananthapuram in October 1994 for allegedly obtaining secret drawings of Isro rocket engines to sell it to Pakistan.

Narayanan was arrested along with the then Isro deputy director D Sasikumaran, and Fousiya Hasan, a Maldivian friend of Rasheeda.

After two years of investigation, Narayanan was given clean-chit by CBI following a closure report in 1996. The investigation agency blamed state police officials and the then intelligence bureau deputy director RB Shreekumar for implicating the scientist.

In 2018, the top court directed a high-level panel to probe the role of police officials and ordered the Kerala government to award 50 lakh in compensation to Narayanan for wrongful incarceration. The court called the police action against the former Isro scientists as a ‘psycho-pathological treatment’. In its order, the top court said, the scientist’s "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".

On April 5 this year, the central government approached the Supreme Court seeking consideration of a report filed by a committee regarding the role of police officials in the 1994 case.

What Narayanan said:

The 79-year-old Narayanan said that the Kerala police had "fabricated" the case. He also claimed that the technology that he was accused of stealing did not even exist at that time.

Political fallout of the case:

A section of the Congress leaders targeted the then chief minister of Kerala, late K Karunakaran, over his alleged involvement in the case. It eventually led Karunakaran to resign from his post.

(With inputs from agencies)

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