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ISRO espionage case: SC sets aside anticipatory bail to ex-police officers

The Supreme Court on Friday set aside the Kerala high court’s order granting anticipatory bail to five former police and Intelligence Bureau (IB) officers in the case related to the alleged framing of former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) scientist S Nambi Narayanan and two others for espionage in 1994. It granted them five-week protection from arrest.

A bench of justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar said the anticipatory bail pleas are “relegated to the high court to be decided afresh” within four weeks. “As an interim arrangement, for a period of five weeks, till the bail application is decided, the accused will not be arrested, subject to their cooperation with the investigation.”

The order came after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) moved the top court challenging August 13, 2021, order of the high court granting anticipatory bail to former RB Sreekumar, then posted with IB, Siby Mathews, S Vijayan, Thampi S Durgadutt, and PS Jayaprakash, saying the First Information Report (FIR) in the matter was filed after considerable delay.

The CBI argued the FIR was filed in line with a Supreme Court direction in April 2021 to probe charges against the police officers. The top court’s order was based on an inquiry report of former Supreme Court judge DK Jain.

The CBI claimed it suspected a “foreign hand” behind the conspiracy to arrest Narayanan and two other scientists who were involved in developing an indigenous cryogenic rocket engine.

The Kerala Police arrested the three scientists in November 1994 alleging they were part of a conspiracy to pass on secrets to a Maldivian national. The matter was transferred to the CBI in December 1994 before it closed the case.

The Kerala government reopened the investigation before the top court in September 2018 set it aside and asked Justice Jain to probe the conspiracy to arrest ISRO scientists. The top court ordered the state police to pay 50 lakh compensation to Narayanan.

Justice Jain submitted his report to the top court in March 2021. The court directed the CBI on April 15 last year to register a case based on the report.

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