ISRO espionage case comes to an end, but questions remain

In fact, the evidence was closed by the court in 2011 and had posted the case for argument around 110 times in the last nine years with either party refusing to start the arguments.

Published: 16th February 2020 06:40 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th February 2020 06:40 AM   |  A+A-


Former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan checking his phone on 14 September 2018 after the Supreme court verdict ordering compensation for him for being falsely accused in the ISRO spy case. (Photo | BP Deepu/ EPS)

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The three-decade-old ISRO espionage case that shocked the conscience of the nation in the 90s has now come to an end with former scientist S Nambi Narayanan, who is at the centre of the case, unconditionally withdrawing his petition against the state and Union governments after state agreed to pay him Rs 1.3 crore compensation. Nambi had filed the suit seeking a compensation of Rs 1 crore.

Though the sensational case finally came to a close, it has left too many loose ends hanging as the state’s out-of-court-settlement to pay Rs 1.3 crore is apart from the Rs 50 lakh compensation set by the Supreme Court. In a written memo submitted before the Subordinate Judge’s Court, Thiruvananthapuram, Nambi Narayanan claimed the compensation agreed to be paid to him by the defendants 1 to 5 (state government) is agreeable to him and hence he is withdrawing the suit seeking `1 crore compensation unconditionally. 

According to the court order, no personal liability can be fixed on defendants 6 to 111 (officials accused of falsely implicating him) and no recovery will be effected from the defendants to realise the amount.
Just as the espionage case, even the denouement has raised many questions. Nambi had filed the case against the state government, including commissioner and secretary to Kerala, DGP (crimes), DIG of police, Inspector of police, Vanchiyoor, and officials like Sibi Mathew (then Vigilance IG), TP Senkumar (then state police chief), then DySPs S Vijayan, Jogesh, Mathew John, Joint director (IB), and R B Sreekumar, deputy director (IB) and the Union of India. 

No mention of recovering money from govt officials

Following the out-of-the-court settlement, he has decided to withdraw the case against the officials who, according to him, had falsely implicated him in the case and the Union Government. All through the years, he has been demanding action against these officials. Further, the government has agreed to provide the compensation over `1 crore from state exchequer as there is no mention about recovering the money from the officials who allegedly implicated him in the case. 

The Union government was party to the case and the GO sanctioning the Rs 1.3 crore has no mention about whether it has taken the decision in consultation with the Centre. In short, Rs 1.3 crore compensation would purely be the public money and the state even saved Union Government from paying its share. 

Another question is why the state government has gone for an out-of-the-court settlement without waiting for the court’s decision. He was seeking Rs 1-crore compensation. But now the state has agreed to pay Rs 1.3 crore. The GO sanctioning the compensation was issued at a time when the case was heading for its logical conclusion after the long-drawn legal battle. 

In fact, the evidence was closed by the court in 2011 and had posted the case for argument around 110 times in the last nine years with either party refusing to start the arguments. It is still unclear on how the state arrived at the compensation amount. Though the decision was based on a report from former CS K Jayakumar, the terms of references have not been revealed.

High-octane saga

The espionage case dates back to 1994, when Nambi Narayanan, along with another scientist, was accused of selling classified information on India’s cryogenic engine programme to Russia and Pakistan

In Dec 2019, Kerala government decided to give him a compensation of Rs 1.3 crore including 18 per cent interest per year from the date of suit till realisation 

In May 1996, the CBI filed a report before the chief judicial magistrate saying that the espionage case was false and there was no evidence to back the charges against the accused. The court accepted the report and discharged all the accused

In 2001, the NHRC awarded him interim compensation of Rs 10 lakh after taking into account the 1998 judgment  

In 1998, the Supreme Court granted compensation of Rs 1 lakh to Nambi and others who were discharged in the case, and directed the state government to pay the amount 

In Sep 2018, the Supreme Court held that Nambi Narayanan was “arrested unnecessarily, harassed and subjected to mental cruelty” in the espionage case and ordered to pay Rs 50 lakh compensation to him 

Highlights of court order

Nambi claimed that he has no further claim against any of the defendants and is withdrawing the suit unconditionally as per GO (MS) No 203/2019 Home dated 27/12/2019

No personal liability can be fixed on defendants 6 to 111 (officials accused of falsely implicating him) and no recovery will be effected from any of the defendants and all other defendants to realise the amount 

The compensation is paid on account of the compromise arrived towards the full and final settlement of the entire crime suit 

The withdrawal memo of the Nambi and state government order shall form part of the order      

Asked if he has decided to stop his fight against the officials, who according to him, falsely implicated him in the case, after the out-of-the-court settlement, Narayanan refused to comment on the issue. “I have acted as per the law and don’t want to comment on this issue any more,” he said.    


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