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SOURCE: PTI

The 1994 ISRO espionage case, in which former space scientist Nambi Narayanan was falsely implicated, was allegedly created by a then special branch officer of the Kerala Police to justify the illegal detention of a Maldivian woman who had spurned his advances, the CBI said in court.

The probe agency made the allegation in its charge sheet against five former police officers for allegedly implicating Mr Narayanan and five others, including two Maldivian women, in the espionage case.

In the charge sheet, filed in the last week of June and made public on Wednesday, the CBI said that then special branch officer S Vijayan, who retired as a Superintendent, took away the travel documents and air tickets of Maldivian national Mariyam Rasheeda, preventing her from leaving the country after she spurned his advances.

The agency further said that Vijayan then found that she was in contact with an ISRO scientist – D Shasikumaran – and based on that he mounted surveillance on her and her Maldivian friend Fauzia Hasan.

The police also informed the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau (SIB) about the women, but the IB officers who examined the foreign nationals could not find anything suspicious, the CBI said.

Thereafter, Ms Rasheeda was arrested under the Foreigners Act for overstaying in the country without a valid visa with the knowledge of then Commissioner of Police of Thiruvananthapuram and then SIB Deputy Director, the CBI said.

When Ms Rasheeda’s custody under the Foreigners Act was about to expire, based on a false report by Vijayan, she and Ms Hasan were implicated in a case under the Official Secrets Act, and their custody was handed over to an SIT formed to probe the espionage issue, the CBI charge sheet said.

Subsequently, the SIT arrested four ISRO scientists including Mr Narayanan, the CBI added.

In the charge sheet, the CBI said that its probe revealed that the espionage case was an “abuse of law right from the initial stage” when Maldivian national Mariyam Rasheeda was detained illegally and framed for overstaying in the country for allegedly spurning Vijayan’s advances.

“To sustain the initial wrongs, another case of serious nature was launched with false interrogation reports against the victims (including Narayanan and others),” the agency has said in its final report recommending the prosecution of former DGPs RB Sreekumar and Siby Mathews, former SPs S Vijayan and KK Joshua and ex-intelligence officer PS Jayaprakash.

The agency has charged them under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code, including sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 342 (wrongful confinement), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 330 (voluntarily causing hurt to extract a confession), 167 (public servant framing an incorrect document), 193 (giving false evidence), 354 (outrage modesty of a woman).

The agency, however, did not recommend prosecution of the other 13 accused, including then Kerala police and IB officers, in the case as no evidence was available against them.

Reacting to the development, Mr Narayanan said that as an individual he was not concerned whether the charge-sheeted former police and IB officers were punished as his role in the matter was over.

“They have already been punished. They are already suffering. I have no desire that they should go to jail. I do not even expect an apology from them. I would have been happy if they just said that they had made a mistake,” Mr Narayanan told reporters.

The scientist said that his innocence was revealed in 1996 and since then he fought a legal battle for 20 years to find out who was behind the conspiracy to frame him.

“I have proved my innocence. My work is over,” he said.

The case regarding the conspiracy to frame Mr Narayanan was registered in 2021 on the Supreme Court’s directions.

On April 15, 2021, the top court ordered that the report of a high-level committee on the role of erring police officials in the 1994 espionage case involving ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan be given to the CBI.

The Kerala police registered two cases in October 1994 after Maldivian national Mariyam Rasheeda was arrested in Thiruvananthapuram for allegedly obtaining secret drawings of ISRO rocket engines to sell to Pakistan.

Mr Narayanan, then director of the cryogenic project at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), was arrested along with the then ISRO deputy director D Sasikumaran and Fousiya Hasan, a Maldivian friend of Ms Rasheeda.

The CBI probe found the allegations to be false.

Terming the police action against the former ISRO scientist “psychopathological treatment,” the top court, in September 2018, said that his “liberty and dignity,” basic to his human rights, were jeopardised as he was taken into custody and, despite all the glory of the past, was eventually compelled to face “cynical abhorrence.” The top court also awarded ? 50 lakh as compensation to Mr Narayanan for wrongful imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and humiliation suffered by him.