KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Friday granted anticipatory bail to former Gujarat police chief R B Sreekumar and three others in the ISRO espionage case, observing that there was not even a "scintilla of evidence" against former Gujarat DGP RB Sreekumar and three other former cops.
Justice Ashok Menon said there was no evidence to suggest that they may be influenced by any foreign power so as to induce them to hatch a conspiracy to falsely implicate the former scientists of the ISRO with the intention to derail the development of the cryogenic engine. The CBI had alleged involvement of Pakistan in framing cases against former scientists.
The court made the observation while granting anticipatory bail to Sreekumar, PS Jayaprakash, an ex-intelligence bureau officer and 11th accused and two former cops - S Vijayan and Thampi S Durga Dutt, first and second accused in the case respectively for hatching a criminal conspiracy to frame former scientists in the espionage case. The petitioners argued that even though the CBI had registered the crime and started an investigation apart from the offences mentioned in the FIR, there is no allegation against the accused of having acted against the interest of the Country.
The court observed that unless there were specific materials regarding their involvement, prima facie, it cannot be said that they were acting against the interest of the Country. The investigation was triggered by the apprehension of the Maldivian ladies, who were overstaying the Visa and during the investigation, the officers in the lower rank like accused first and second found certain suspicious circumstances, as a result of which, they registered the crime and reported the matter to the higher-ups. An officer of the rank of DGP of Kerala had constituted a special investigating team consisting of investigating officers from the I.B. to assist the Kerala Police to arrive at a conclusion.
The concerns of the Kerala Police at that stage cannot be said to be without any basis. But ultimately it was found that there was nothing in the accusation made against the offices and the investigation was dropped. "The accused in the present crime should not be made to face a similar situation of being forced to undergo the ignominy of being incarcerated in the prison for interrogation at this old age after their retirement for an incident that took place a quarter of the century ago. There is no indication of material, apart from the rhetoric that a foreign power has a hand in persuading the petitioners. Hence, the petitioners are entitled to the remedy of anticipatory bail," observed the court.
CBI submitted that even though the offences are now included in the FIR may not be so grave, but there is a clear indication that the petitioners were part of a team, which had ulterior motives to torpedo the attempts of ISRO for manufacturing the ingenuous cryogenic engine in India.
The court held that in the event of the petitioners being arrested, they should be released on bail on the execution of a bond for Rs.1 lakh each, with two solvent sureties each for the like amount. They should appear before the Investigating Officer as and when called and should cooperate with the probe. They should not leave the country without the permission of the jurisdictional court.