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Cannot Say if Siby Mathews, Others Would Be Arrested in Conspiracy Case: CBI to Court

The CBI is investigating the ISRO scientist spying case involving Nambi Narayanan.

The CBI is investigating the ISRO scientist spying case involving Nambi Narayanan.

The court on July 14 had called for both case diaries and the committee report.

The CBI on Friday told a court here it cannot presently say if the former Kerala Police and Intelligence Bureau (IB) officers named in the case registered by the agency in connection with the illegal arrest of former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan and two Maldives nationals in a 1994 spying case, will be arrested or not. The lawyer representing the agency told the court that he would need to take instructions on that aspect.

The submission was made before Principal District and Sessions Judge P Krishnakumar during the hearing of former Kerala DGP Siby Mathews’ anticipatory bail plea in the case registered by CBI against him and 17 other police officers for various offences. The agency also told the court that it was yet to collect evidence against the accused, including Mathews, as it was a 27-year-old case and therefore, their custodial interrogation might be required.

It had made such a submission even before the Kerala High Court while opposing the anticipatory bail pleas of former Kerala Police officers S Vijayan and Thampi S Durga Dutt. CBI also placed before the court the case diary of its investigation in the present case and the report of a committee headed by Justice (retd) D K Jain which was constituted by the Supreme Court to look into the matter.

It said the case diary of the investigation carried out in the 1994 espionage case shall be placed before the court on the next date, a lawyer close to the case said. The court on July 14 had called for both case diaries and the committee report.

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The agency will continue with its arguments on July 26, the next date of hearing in the matter and will also inform the court whether it intends to arrest Mathews and the other accused in the case. Prior to CBI’s arguments, advocate Prasad Gandhi — representing the two Maldives nationals — told the court that proper procedure was not followed by Mathews and his Special Investigation Team (SIT) with regard to initiation of the case and arrest of the two women and the scientist.

Gandhi contended before the court that action under the Official Secrets Act can only be taken by the Union Government and not the state government or the police here. He also told the court that the arrests were made by the SIT without any credible evidence and it was the CBI which was supposed to investigate the case.

Gandhi also claimed in court that “it can only be a wild imagination to believe that a spy would travel with his/her original passport, show actual residential address and sell their belongings to pay hotel bills". On the next date, advocate V Ajakumar, representing Mathews, would be rebutting the arguments of CBI, Narayanan and the two Maldives women.

On the last date of hearing, former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan had told the court that he had informed the then Prime Minister that the US was also involved in the conspiracy to implicate him in the 1994 espionage case, but was asked not to publicise it so as not to ruin the country’s relations with that government. CBI has lodged the case for various offences, including criminal conspiracy and kidnapping and fabrication of evidence, under the IPC in connection with the arrest of Narayanan and the two Maldives nationals — Mariyam Rasheeda and Fouziyya Hasan.

The women, in their plea opposing Mathews anticipatory bail application, have sought Rs two crore as damages from each of the 18 officers named in CBI’s case. Mathews has refuted the allegations against him and has claimed that Narayanan and the two women were arrested due to the pressure of IB officers.

Mathews has also claimed cases under the Foreigners Act and the Official Secrets Act were registered against Rasheeda based on the information received from the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) that she had “undesirable connections with some ISRO scientists and her activities were prejudicial to interest and security of India." The Supreme Court had on April 15 ordered that the report of a high-level committee on the role of erring police officials in the espionage case relating to Narayanan be given to the CBI and directed the agency to conduct further investigation on the issue. The three-member committee, headed by former apex court judge Justice (retd) D K Jain, was appointed by the top courtin 2018 after acquitting Narayanan in the case.

The Supreme Court had also directed the Kerala government to pay Rs 50 lakh as compensation for compelling Narayanan toundergo “immense humiliation". The espionage case 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.

The CBI, in its probe at that time, had held that top police officials in Kerala were responsible for Narayanan’s illegal arrest. The case also had a political fallout, with a section in the Congress targeting the then Chief Minister late K Karunakaran over the issue, that eventually led to his resignation..

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first published:July 16, 2021, 17:23 IST