The CBI on Wednesday opposed the bail applications of two former Kerala police officers involved in the arrest of former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan in a 1994 espionage case, claiming that they falsely implicated him in a “concocted case” that slowed the development of India’s cryogenic technology. The CBI informed the Kerala High Court that the two accused committed serious offences since they both “took an active role and invented an espionage case in pursuance of the conspiracy with the other accused in the FIR (filed by CBI) and other unknown individuals.”
“The nature and gravity of the offences alleged against the petitioners (S Vijayan and Thampi S Durga Dutt) also had a significant impact on the technological development of cryogenic technology, which was delayed due to the false implication of Nambi Narayanan and news related to it,” it said, adding that “because it is related to national interest and a crime against a scientist has been committed, society at large has been affected.”
The CBI made its submissions in a statement filed through Assistant Solicitor General P Vijayakumar, opposing the anticipatory bail petition jointly filed by retired Kerala Police officers S Vijayan and Thampi S Durga Dutt, who were members of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) that arrested the scientist. The High Court is expected to hear their anticipatory bail application on Thursday.
Meanwhile, a single judge panel led by Justice K Haripal on Wednesday extended PS Jayaprakash’s interim protection from arrest given on June 23 to the retired IB officer, who is also an accused in the CBI case. In addition to Vijayan and Dutt, 16 others, including Intelligence Bureau (IB) officers, are named as accused in the case registered by the agency for various offences under the Indian Penal Code, including criminal conspiracy, kidnapping, and fabrication of evidence, in connection with the arrest and detention of Nambi Narayanan.
The CBI, which is also represented by Union government lawyer Suvin R Menon, has claimed that the two retired Kerala Police officers filed the interim bail petition to “scuttle the due process of law,” adding that it was “premature” and “not sustainable.” “It is being submitted solely for the purpose of evading the clutches of the law,” the agency stated. The CBI has said that it has reason to believe that if they are given interim bail, they will refuse to participate with the inquiry and “will disrupt the pace of the investigation.”
According to the agency, many of the witnesses would be in uniform or in government service, and because the two accused “remain highly influential,” giving anticipatory bail to them “would generate dread in the minds of likely witnesses.”
On April 15, the Supreme Court directed that the report of a high-level committee on the role of erring police officials in the Narayanan espionage case be provided to the CBI and that the agency conduct additional inquiry into the matter. The three-member committee, led by former Supreme Court Justice (retd) DK Jain, was appointed by the top court in 2018 after Narayanan was acquitted in the case. The Supreme Court further ordered the Kerala government to pay Narayanan Rs 50 lakh in retaliation for subjecting him to “immense humiliation.”
The espionage case, which had made headlines at the time, involved charges that two scientists and four people, including two Maldivian women, had sent some confidential documents about India’s space programme to foreign countries. In its investigation at the time, the CBI concluded that Narayanan’s illegal detention was the fault of high police officials in Kerala. The case also had political ramifications, with a faction of Congress targeting then-Chief Minister late K Karunakaran over the issue, leading to his resignation.