The SC instructed CBI to investigate the wrongful arrest of ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan in the 1994 ISRO espionage case. The Supreme Court asked the Central Bureau of Investigation to submit a report in the next three months.

The Supreme Court bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar took into consideration the report submitted by Justice DK Jain who was instructed to look into the false actions carried out by Kerala Police officials against ISRO scientist Narayanan.

The Supreme Court in its remark stated, “The report says it’s a serious matter which needs deeper investigation. it seems to suggests it’s a case of commission and omission.”

“We direct Supreme Court Registry to forward one copy of the report to the Director or Acting Director of CBI. CBI will proceed in accordance with law. CBI will be at liberty to treat the report as a preliminary report,” the Justice A.M. Khanwilkar headed Supreme Court bench ordered.

Who is Nambi Narayanan?

1. Nambi Narayanan is a Tamil Nadu based scientist and aerospace researcher. He was one of the most important figures that were instrumental in the development of the Vikas engine that would later be used in the first PSLV India launched.

During his tenure at ISRO as a scientist, S. Narayanan in 1994 was accused of espionage and was arrested by the Kerala police officials.

The 1994 espionage case

In 1994, Nambi was accused of selling Indian space technology’s trade secrets to Pakistan. Although the allegations were later dismissed by Supreme Court in 1998, he had to spend 50 days in jail.

Mr. Nambi wasn’t alone in jail as fellow scientist D Sasikumar and 4 other scientists too were thrown in jail on false accusations.

Mariam Rasheeda and her connection to Nambi Narayanan

The case was such that a Maldivian national Mariam Rasheeda was charged by Kerala Police under Section 14 of Foreigners Act and Section 7 of Foreigners Order.

The charges against her were on the grounds of the fact that she overstayed in India following her flight’s cancellation.

After interrogation, the Kerala police made a case that she contacted ISRO scientists to strike a deal between them and Pakistan in the transfer of cryogenic engine technology secrets.

Nambi’s arrest and subsequent torture by Kerala Police

In the following month, the police arrested Nambi and Sasikumaran. Narayanan spent 50 days in jail. In the jail he was interrogated by IB chief who forced him to make accusations against the top chief of ISRO.

The IB chief tortured Nambi and tried forcing him into implicating A. E. Muthunayagam, his boss. When he refused to do so, he was tortured to a point he passed out and had to be hospitalized.

Espionage claims false and unproven: CBI

After 20 days of his case being filed, the investigation was taken over by the CBI. In its closure report, the CBI reported the Kochi’s Chief Judicial Magistrate that the allegations of espionage were completely false and unproven.

The Kochi court accepted the report and instructed the police to discharge all the implicated individuals.

Exile from ISRO

In 1996, the CPI government wanted to initiate another probe into the case, however, the Supreme Court dismissed the request on the appeal of Nambi. Meanwhile, after the charges were dismissed, Narayanan and Sasikumar were transferred by ISRO and were made to work on clerical desk jobs.

Human Rights’ Commission’s Appeal

Later in 1999, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) came down hard on Kerala government and claimed that it damaged Narayanan’s career in space and pushed him through severe physical and mental torture.

At the turn of the millennia, in 2001 the National Human Rights Commission instructed Kerala government to pay Nambi a sum of Rs. 1 crore for compensation.

However, it took the Kerala High Court 11 years to do so. In 2012, the Kerala High Court issued a Rs. 10 lakh compensation amount to Nambi Narayanan.