IB pressurised Kerala Police to arrest Nambi Narayanan in the ISRO espionage case: Former DGP Siby Mathews

The CBI, in its probe back then, had held that the then top police officials in Kerala were responsible for Nambi Narayanan's illegal arrest.

Published: 06th July 2021 08:30 PM  |   Last Updated: 06th July 2021 08:30 PM   |  A+A-

ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan

ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan (Photo | EPS)


THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Former Kerala DGP Siby Mathews has claimed that he and senior Kerala Police officers were pressurised by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to arrest ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan in the 1994 espionage case.

Mathews has made the claim in his application seeking anticipatory bail in the case registered by CBI against him and 17 other police officers for various offences, including criminal conspiracy, kidnapping and fabrication of evidence, under the Indian Penal Code.

In his application, which is likely to be heard on Wednesday by the Principal Sessions Court in Thiruvananthapuram, he has further claimed that cases under the Foreigners Act and the Official Secrets Act was registered against Mariyam Rasheeda, a Maldives national, based on the information received from the 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."

Rasheeda was, thereafter, arrested on the instructions of a then senior IB officer, Mathews, who had headed the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the espionage case, has claimed.

"Therefore, any bonafide actions taken by the petitioner (Mathews) and his team based on the information furnished by other agencies, approved under law, are actions taken under good faith and the petitioner is entitled to the protections given under the law."

"Even if that information is found to be mere apprehensions or suspicions by the subsequent agency on final investigation, no criminal conspiracy could be alleged in respect of such actions," the application has contended.

It has further said that IB and RAW are special agencies with expertise in collecting details regarding crimes affecting the security of the nation and the state police was bound to give due weightage to the information given by them and take suitable legal actions.

He has also contended that materials collected during the initial probe by him and his team "clearly prove the nexus of foreign nationals with the other accused and illegal transactions between them."

The application has claimed that the questioning of Rasheeda had revealed information regarding involvement of one Chandrasekhar, a representative of Russian Space Agency GLAVKOSMOS, Sasikumaran - an ISRO scientist - andFousiya Hasan, another Maldives national.

When Hassan was questioned, "a spy network linking Colombo-Chennai-Thiruvananthapuram and Maldives was revealed," it has said and added that the arrest and questioning of Sasikumaran and Chandrasekhar corroborated the statements of the Maldives nationals and also strengthened the involvement of Nambi Narayanan.

"By this time, IB officials were pressurising the Special Investigation Team and senior police officers of Kerala to arrest Raman Srivastava (then Inspector General (south zone) who had alleged connections with Rasheeda as per news reports), Nambi Narayanan and others on the ground that the matter was related to security of the nation...," Mathews has claimed in his plea.

He further said that Narayanan was arrested in November 1994 and he never claimed he underwent custodial torture whenever he was produced before the court.

As the case required a detailed probe involving various central government organisations, Mathews claimed that he reported to the State Police Chief to recommend to the Kerala government to hand over the investigation to CBI.

He has further claimed that if there was any conspiracy or bad faith on his part, he would not have recommended that the probe be handed over to CBI.

CBI, in its reports to the state and central governments, pointed out alleged "laches" on the part of Kerala Police and IB, he has said and added that the irregularities highlighted by the agency even if true would only warrant disciplinary action which would be unsustainable as all the officers concerned have retired.

CBI only requested the state government to take "such action as deemed fit" against the Kerala Police officers who were responsible for the laches and it never recommended any disciplinary action, the application has said.

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 1994 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 court in 2018 after acquitting Narayanan in the case.

The top court had also directed the Kerala government to cough up Rs 50 lakh as compensation for compelling Narayanan to undergo "immense humiliation".

It had ordered the setting up of the committee to take appropriate steps against the erring officials for causing"tremendous harassment" and "immeasurable anguish" to Narayanan and had directed the Centre and state government to nominate one officer each in the panel.

The espionage case, which had hit the headlines in1994, 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 back then, had held that the then top police officials in Kerala were responsible for Narayanan's illegal arrest.

The case also had a political fallout, with a section in Congress targeting the then Chief Minister late K Karunakaran over the issue, that eventually led to his resignation.

The 79-year-old former scientist, who was given a clean chit by the CBI, had earlier said that the Kerala police had "fabricated" the case and the technology he was charged with having stolen and sold in the 1994 case did not even exist at that time.

Narayanan had approached the apex court against a Kerala High Court judgement that said no action needed to be taken against Mathews and two retired Superintendents of police K K Joshua and S Vijayan, who were later held responsible by the CBI for the scientist's illegal arrest.

The case had drawn attention in October 1994 when Rasheeda was arrested for allegedly obtaining secret drawings of SRO rocket engines to sell to Pakistan.


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