India

CBI in Kerala to probe ISRO spy case frame-up

A Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) team was here to investigate the police “frame-up” that allegedly resulted in the infamous “ISRO spy case” in 1994.

Last month, the CBI filed an FIR marked as classified in the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) court here accusing four former law enforcers of “wrongful arrest, custodial torture, and unjustified incarceration” of former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan and others.

It had named retired Director General of Police Siby Mathews, who headed the Special Investigation Team (SIT) that probed the ISRO scandal, his deputies K.K. Joshua, S. Vijayan, and Thampi. S. Durgadutt, and the then Deputy Director, Intelligence Bureau, R.B. Sreekumar, as accused in the FIR. Recently, a district court here had granted anticipatory bail to Mr. Mathews in the case.

According to sources close to Mr. Narayanan, the CBI had contacted the former scientist and sought time to take his statement on Tuesday. They said the agency had spoken to him on the phone. Mr. Narayanan reportedly told the investigators that he was ready to give his statement.

However, the agency had not fixed the interview venue. It was not immediately known whether the CBI had contacted the accused in the case. They have also moved the court for anticipatory bail.

The grim chapter in the annals of the police investigation in Kerala has its provenance in a case registered at Vanchiyoor station on November 13, 1994.

Based on a “dubious” special branch report, the police had booked two Maldivian women for overstay and violation of the provisions of the Official Secrets Act.

The charging officers accused the women of attempting to entrap ISRO scientists involved in the cryogenic engine procurement project. In addition, they alleged the women had spirited out high-end space secrets out of India for a foreign power.

Soon, newspapers were awash with “ill-informed and salacious” reports about honey traps, stolen rocket designs, ensnared scientists, complicit politicians, and conniving police officers.

Mr. Narayanan, fellow scientist D. Sasikumaran, and two ISRO consultants K. Chandrasekhar and Sudhir Kumar Sharma were caught up in the vortex of the stormy scandal.

Opposing factions in the then ruling Congress exploited the scandal to settle scores. The ISRO spy case led to the resignation of the then Chief Minister K. Karunakaran.

The CBI had registered the case at the behest of the Supreme Court.


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