ISRO espionage case: SC sets aside anticipatory bail of four former officers; asks HC to consider bail pleas afresh

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Kerala HC to consider afresh anticipatory bail pleas of former Gujarat DGP RB Sreekumar, two former police officers of Kerala, S Vijayan and Thampi S Durga Dutt, and a retired intelligence official P S Jayaprakash accused of hatching a conspiracy to frame former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayan and others in the ISRO espionage case.

The retired Kerala Police officers S Vijayan and Thampi S Durga Dutt were part of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) which arrested the scientist.

The bench led by Justice MR Shah while setting aside HC’s order asked it to reconsider their pleas within four weeks. It further granted interim protection from arrest to the accused for five weeks and till the HC decides their pleas subject to them cooperating in the investigation.

Court’s order came in a plea filed by CBI challenging Kerala HC’s April 16 order granting them anticipatory bail. HC while granting them bail had observed that concerns of the Kerala police at that stage about the espionage case cannot be said to be without basis.

“Some of the documents which have been produced for perusal indicate that there were certain suspicious circumstances pointing towards the act of the Scientists in the ISRO and that is what induced the officers to proceed against them”, Justice Ashok Menon had noted in the order.

The High Court also remarked that there was “not even a scintilla of evidence” to suggest that the petitioners accused of implicating former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan in the espionage case were influenced by foreign elements.

Challenging the bail, the probe agency had contended that the HC had granted anticipatory bail on the ground that the matter was old. ASG SV Raju had added that despite the offence which was committed 25 years ago, top court had directed for registration of FIR and it was not open for the HC to grant bail on this ground. On the other hand, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal for the then IB officer, argued accused was charged for “bailable offences”. He also added that there was no allegation against him in the FIR and there was no basis for the probe agency to take him into custody.

Narayanan and six others were accused of selling secrets pertaining to ISRO’s cryogenic programme to women who were allegedly spying for Russia, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and other countries. In 1994, he and two other businessmen were arrested on the charges of espionage.

In September 2018, the Supreme Court had held that the prosecution initiated by Kerala Police in the 1990’s in relation to the ISRO Espionage Case was maliciously moved against the Scientist, causing him immense humiliation. As a result of this, the Kerala Government was directed to pay compensation of Rs. 50 lac to Narayanan. Further to this, a three-member committee was constituted to probe into the illegal arrest of Narayanan.

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Kerala HC to consider afresh anticipatory bail pleas of former Gujarat DGP RB Sreekumar, two former police officers of Kerala, S Vijayan and Thampi S Durga Dutt, and a retired intelligence official P S Jayaprakash accused of hatching a conspiracy to frame former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayan and others in the ISRO espionage case.

The retired Kerala Police officers S Vijayan and Thampi S Durga Dutt were part of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) which arrested the scientist.

The bench led by Justice MR Shah while setting aside HC’s order asked it to reconsider their pleas within four weeks. It further granted interim protection from arrest to the accused for five weeks and till the HC decides their pleas subject to them cooperating in the investigation.

Court’s order came in a plea filed by CBI challenging Kerala HC’s April 16 order granting them anticipatory bail. HC while granting them bail had observed that concerns of the Kerala police at that stage about the espionage case cannot be said to be without basis.

“Some of the documents which have been produced for perusal indicate that there were certain suspicious circumstances pointing towards the act of the Scientists in the ISRO and that is what induced the officers to proceed against them”, Justice Ashok Menon had noted in the order.

The High Court also remarked that there was “not even a scintilla of evidence” to suggest that the petitioners accused of implicating former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan in the espionage case were influenced by foreign elements.

Challenging the bail, the probe agency had contended that the HC had granted anticipatory bail on the ground that the matter was old. ASG SV Raju had added that despite the offence which was committed 25 years ago, top court had directed for registration of FIR and it was not open for the HC to grant bail on this ground. On the other hand, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal for the then IB officer, argued accused was charged for “bailable offences”. He also added that there was no allegation against him in the FIR and there was no basis for the probe agency to take him into custody.

Narayanan and six others were accused of selling secrets pertaining to ISRO’s cryogenic programme to women who were allegedly spying for Russia, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and other countries. In 1994, he and two other businessmen were arrested on the charges of espionage.

In September 2018, the Supreme Court had held that the prosecution initiated by Kerala Police in the 1990’s in relation to the ISRO Espionage Case was maliciously moved against the Scientist, causing him immense humiliation. As a result of this, the Kerala Government was directed to pay compensation of Rs. 50 lac to Narayanan. Further to this, a three-member committee was constituted to probe into the illegal arrest of Narayanan.