Will Justice be meted out to ISRO Scientist Nambi Narayanan?

After nearly 23 years of struggling and making numerous rounds of courts, justice may or may not be served tomorrow for Nambi Narayanan, the ISRO (Indian Space and Research Organisation) scientist. Falsely accused of espionage in 1994, it was established that the case was falsified when the CBI released a closure report to the effect and stated that action should be taken against the police officials who fabricated charges against Mr. Narayanan.

In the meantime, Mr. Narayanan, who is currently 76 had spent 59 days in jail and was suspended for 18 months. The ISRO scientist was apparently accused of selling cryogenic technology whereas, India acquired the technology only in 2015. “This remains the biggest fallacy in the case,” says Mr. Naryanan’s counsel, C Unnikrishnan. Mr. Narayanan was the first project director for India’s cryogenic programme.

The case was initially investigated by Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Kerala Police headed by Sibi Matthews. Subsequently after 20 days, the case was handed over to the CBI. After investigating for a year and a half, the CBI filed a closure report concluding that it is a false case. This was a blow to the Kerala Police because their story was falsified. They instigated the government and issued a notification for further investigation by the Kerala Police. In the meantime, the closure report filed by CBI was accepted by the CBI court, Ernakulam.

It has to be noted that the case comes under the Indian Official Secrets Act and as per the act, only the ISRO or the government can file a complaint. But, this complaint demanding further investigation by Kerala Police was raised by Kerala Police Inspector S Vijayan.

This order for further investigation was challenged by Mr. Narayanan and others in the High Court and then the Supreme Court. In 1998, the Supreme Court quashed order of re-investigation with heavy strictures on government action. It was stated that it is a malafide exercise of power and doesn’t comport with non pattern of responsible government bound by the rule of law. In the meanwhile, the CBI sent another report along with the closure report of 1996, recommending the government of Kerala to take action against police officials who fabricated the case.

The then DGP and Chief secretary however, recommended to drop action. This wasn’t acceptable by the then Chief Minister. He stated that he wanted to await the pending Supreme Court judgement on the reinvestigation. And this was the conclusion written in the Chief Minister’s file.

The said file went missing for a period of 14 years. In 2012, however, the file resurfaced due to an investigation by a journalist in Trivandrum who pointed that the file hadn’t been closed. Once the file resurfaced, the government issued an order asking for the action against police officials to be dropped. Three main reasons stated for dropping of action were huge delay, the officials in question had retired and three, no court directed to take action.

“We challenged this order at the single bench and the order was quashed by Justice Ramakrishnan Pillai calling it a mockery of the rule of law,” says the lawyer, C Unnikrishnan. The irony remains that, though action against these officers were dropped due to delay, the delay was caused by the government, as the government itself was custodian of the file.

“No action has been taken against the police officials despite the CBI’s recommendation. Whereas, isn’t it sensible to conduct an inquiry against any official only on the basis of a complaint lodged,” C Unnikrishnan says.

The government accepted this decision of the single bench and even formed a committee to decide what action should be taken. However, the police officials involved filed an appeal in front of division bench, challenging the order by the single bench. The division bench declared that the government order to drop action is correct. This has been challenged by Mr. Narayanan by filing an SLP (special leave petition). This is due for hearing tomorrow, 23rd February at the Supreme Court.

“This is a person who has dedicated his life to the nation, he is a contributor to the nation. And this is why I have taken up his case since the last four-five years. And I have been working on it pro bono. This is the least someone like me can do,” says C Unnikrishnan.

A solemn Nambi Naryanan says, “After nearly 23 years of waiting and appealing, finally tomorrow looks like the day a decision will be made. I hope justice is served. I hope the people instrumental in framing me are punished.”

Cover image courtesy www.rediff.com


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