The Supreme Court on Friday set aside Kerala High Court 2021 orders granting anticipatory bail to four former police and intelligence bureau officials in a case of the alleged frame-up of scientist Nambi Narayanan in the 1994 ISRO espionage matter.
A Bench of Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar remitted the bail pleas back to the Kerala High Court and asked it to decide the same as early as possible, at any rate “within a period of four weeks".
The top court was hearing the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) appeal against the high court order granting bail to former Gujarat DGP R B Sreekumar, two former police officers of Kerala — S Vijayan and Thampi S Durga Dutt, and a retired intelligence official P S Jayaprakash. The court had reserved the judgement on the two petitions filed by CBI on November 28.
Meanwhile, the apex court granted interim protection from arrest to the accused for a period of five weeks, subject to their cooperation with the investigation, till the High Court finally decides the matter.
“All the anticipatory bail applications are remitted to the High Court to decide the same afresh in accordance with law and in the light of the observations made hereinabove. However, it is observed that this Court has not observed anything on the merits of the case of the either of the parties and it is ultimately for the High Court to pass appropriate order," the SC order said.
“We request the High Court to finally decide and dispose of the anticipatory bail applications at the earliest, but preferably within a period of four weeks from the date of receipt of these orders," it added.
The apex court had in November last year issued notice on the CBI’s plea filed in the matter.
The agency had said its probe found that some scientists were tortured and framed in the espionage case due to which the development of cryogenic engine was hit, setting back India’s space programme by almost one or two decades.
The CBI earlier alleged 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 four accused on August 13 last year, 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 is specific material 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 people for various 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 alleged 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 had said 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 a 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) “psycho-pathological treatment", the apex court had in September 2018 said 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".
(With PTI inputs)
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