Rediff.com
Print this article

SC awards Rs 50 lakh to ex-ISRO scientist for 'harassment' in espionage case

Last updated on: September 14, 2018 23:21 IST

The apex court also ordered a high-level probe into the role of police officers in arresting 76-year-old Nambi Narayanan.

IMAGE: Former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan speaks to media, in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday. Photograph: PTI Photo

24 years after he was wrongfully arrested in the Indian Space Research Organisation espionage case, space scientist Nambi Narayanan was on Friday awarded Rs 50 lakh as compensation by the Supreme Court for suffering 'immense humiliation' at the hands of the Kerala police whose action was dubbed by the court as 'psycho-pathological treatment'.

The apex court while directing the Kerala government to pay the compensation amount within eight weeks also ordered a high-level probe into the role of the erring cops in arresting and causing 'tremendous harassment' and 'immeasurable anguish' to the 76-year old former scientist of the ISRO.

The three-member probe panel will be headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice D K Jain.

The Centre and the Kerala government were also asked by the court to nominate one officer each to the panel. The seat of the committee would be at New Delhi.

 

Pulling up the Kerala police, a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra held that Narayanan was 'arrested unnecessarily, harassed and subjected to mental cruelty', adding his 'liberty and dignity', basic to his human rights, were jeopardised as he was taken into custody and, eventually, despite all the glory of the past, was compelled to face 'cynical abhorrence'.

The espionage case, which hit the headlines in 1994, pertained to allegations of transfer of certain confidential documents on India's space programme to foreign countries by two scientists including Narayanan and four others, including two Maldivian women. Narayanan had to spend close to two months in jail before the CBI concluded the allegations against him were false.

Narayanan approached the apex court against the judgement of the Kerala High Court, which said no action was required to be taken against former Director General of Police Siby Mathews and two retired superintendents of police K K Joshua and S Vijayan, who were later held responsible by the Central Bureau of Investigation for the scientist's illegal arrest.

Welcoming the court order, Narayanan said the espionage case was fabricated and insisted that the technology he was accused to have stolen and sold did not even exist at that time.

"The Supreme Court has clearly stated that it was an illegal arrest. It also identifies and acknowledges the suffering and humiliation I have gone through.

"The highest court of the country has accepted what I said. They (Kerala police) fabricated the case. The technology they said I stole and sold did not even exist then," he said.

"Till the age of 53, I worked for the organisation (ISRO). After that, for 24 years, I worked for this case. I am now going to take rest," Narayanan told PTI, calling the court battle a 'tough fight' where he was 'alone'.

When asked if he had got justice with the Supreme Court's order, he said it was 'very difficult' to answer the question.

"If somebody asks me are you happy that you have received Rs 50 lakh as compensation.....Even with Rs 50 crore I cannot be happy. You cannnot buy my happiness with money. I will be happy with just Rs 5. So, I cannot equate my happiness with this money, I cannot equate my torture with this money," he said.

He said the officials responsible for his illegal arrest should be made to pay him the Rs 50 lakh compensation.

The apex court while ordering that the amount be paid by the state government said it was being given 'to compensate the suffering, anxiety'.

It also allowed him to simultaneously pursue his pending civil suit for further compensation.

"There can be no scintilla of doubt that the appellant, a successful scientist having national reputation, has been compelled to undergo immense humiliation. The lackadaisical attitude of the state police to arrest anyone and put him in police custody has made the appellant to suffer the ignominy.

"The dignity of a person gets shocked when psycho-pathological treatment is meted out to him. A human being cries for justice when he feels that the insensible act has crucified his self-respect," the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said.

Welcoming the judgment, the former scientist said the Kerala police had 'fabricated' the case and insisted that the technology he was accused to have stolen and sold in the 1994 case did not even exist at that time.

"The Supreme Court has clearly stated that it was an illegal arrest. It also identifies and acknowledges the suffering and humiliation I have gone through.

"The highest court of the country has accepted what I said. They (Kerala police) fabricated the case. The technology they said I stole and sold did not even exist then," he said, responding to the order.

Narayanan had approached the top court against the Kerala high court order which said no action was required to be taken against former DGP Siby 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 bench said the 'reputation of an individual is an insegregable facet of his right to life with dignity' and rejected the plea of Kerala government that due to the lapse of time, no inquiry and subsequent actions needed to be taken against the erring officials.

"The criminal law was set in motion without any basis. It was initiated, if one is allowed to say, on some kind of fancy or notion," the bench said.

© Copyright 2018 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.