The Supreme Court on Friday set aside the grant of anticipatory bail by the Kerala High Court to former officers of the Intelligence Bureau, including RB Sreekumar, and the state police who are facing charges of conspiracy to frame ISRO scientist S Nambi Narayanan in the 1994 espionage case. The SC order came on a plea by the CBI challenging the HC’s grant of pre-arrest bail to the accused.
The Kerala HC had on August 13 last year granted anticipatory bail to DGP Sreekumar and P S Jayaprakash who were then with the IB; and two other state police officers, S Vijayan and Thampi S Durgadutt. Former Kerala DGP Siby Mathews, meanwhile, had been granted pre-arrest bail for 60 days by a Sessions Court in Thiruvananthapuram on August 24 last year — the time limit was later set aside by the HC.
On Friday, an SC bench of Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar asked the Kerala HC to consider their pleas “afresh” and decide the matter preferably within four weeks from the date of receipt of its order.
In its order, the SC said that “from the impugned judgment(s) and order(s) passed by the High Court, it appears that the High Court has made some observations without considering the individual role played by the respective accused when they were working in the Kerala Police/ IB and without considering the nature of allegations against them”.
In September 2018, the apex court awarded compensation of Rs 50 lakh to Nambi Narayanan for his illegal arrest and custodial torture in the case. It had also set up a committee headed by its former judge Justice Jain to “find out ways and means to take appropriate steps against the erring” police personnel who allegedly framed Narayanan.
In April 2021, the Supreme Court asked the CBI to probe the matter after the Centre pointed out that the Jain Committee report had said “it’s a serious matter which needs deeper investigation”.
Known popularly as the “ISRO spy scandal”, the case has its origin in the arrest of two Maldivian women, Mariam Rasheeda and Fousiya Hasan, by Kerala police in 1994. The police later claimed to have uncovered a spy ring in ISRO.