The Supreme Court on Friday held that former ISRO scientist S Nambi Narayanan was wrongly framed in an espionage case and that he was arrested unnecessarily, harassed and subjected to mental cruelty. A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice DY Chandrachud also awarded the former scientist a compensation of Rs 50 lakh and ordered a probe into the role of Kerala police officials who wrongly framed Narayanan.
Who is Nambi Narayanan?
Narayanan is an Indian scientist. As a senior official at the ISRO, Narayanan was in-charge of the cryogenics division. He was taken into custody by police in 1994 in a false espionage case. The charges that were slapped on him by the police, were dismissed in 1996 by the CBI. He was declared not guilty by the Supreme Court in 1998 and also the court had announced Rs 1 lakh compensation.
In the early 1970s, Narayanan had introduced the liquid fuel rocket technology. He said that the liquid-fuelled engines will be required to execute ISRO’s civilian space programmes in the future. He invited praise from then ISRO chairman Satish Dhawan and his successor UR Rao for this invention.
Narayanan along with his team, with French assistance, developed the Vikas engine. The Vikas engine is used by the ISRO to launch its rockets including the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) that took Chandrayaan-1 to the moon in 2008.
The Vikas engine is also used as the second and the four strap-on stages of Geo-Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV).
Case against Nambi Narayanan
The case pertains to the leakage of vital defence secrets to two alleged Maldivian intelligence officers in 1994 – Marian Rasheeda and Fauzia Hassan. Narayanan was among the two scientists who were accused of selling ISRO secrets for crores. The case was first investigated by the Kerala police and later handed over to the CBI. Narayanan was arrested and was lodged in jail for 50 days. In 1996, the central probe agency in its probe concluded that Narayanan was wrongly framed in the case by the police and that no espionage had taken place.
According to him, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and state police officials who were interrogating him in connection with the case, wanted him to make false accusations against the top brass of ISRO. But when he refused to comply, he was tortured by the officials until he collapsed and was admitted to hospital.
In his statement, Narayanan had later said that his main complaint was against ISRO because it did not support him.
In 1998, the Supreme Court had ordered a compensation of Rs 1 lakh to Narayanan and others, who were discharged in the case. The court had directed the state government to pay the amount to Narayanan and others. Narayanan later approached the NHRC claiming compensation from the state government for the mental agony and torture suffered by him. In March 2001, the NHRC after hearing arguments and taking into consideration the Supreme Court’s 1998 order, awarded him an interim compensation of Rs 10 lakh.
In 2018, the Supreme Court ordered a probe into the role of the Kerala police officers who wrongly framed Narayanan in the case and awarded Rs 50 lakh compensation to 76-year-old for being subjected to mental cruelty in the case. The court asked the Kerala government to pay the compensation to him within eight weeks.