The Supreme Court on Monday clarified that the committee report on the officials responsible for the wrongful arrest of former Indian Space Research Organisation scientist Nambi Narayanan in an 1994 espionage case cannot be the sole basis of proceeding against them, reported Live Law.
A bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and Sanjiv Khanna said that the Central Bureau of Investigation must collect materials independently to proceed against the accused.
The court had directed the CBI on April 15 to investigate the matter.
“The [committee] report says it is a serious matter which needs deeper investigation,” the court said. “It seems to suggest it is a case of commission and omission.”
The clarification came after the lawyers representing the accused in the case contended that the report from the committee, led by former Supreme Court judge DK Jain, has not been shared with them. They argued that the CBI’s refusal to share the report was causing prejudice to the accused in seeking statutory remedies such as bail. They also claimed that the CBI was heavily relying on the report in its first information report.
At this, the bench observed that the report was no longer relevant as the CBI has registered an FIR. “Nothing will turn on the report... The report is only an initial information,” Justice Khanwilkar observed. “Ultimately it is the investigation which is done which will have the consequence.”
In its order, the court also clarified that the accused will have the liberty to seek possible remedies available, which will be decided by the courts concerned on the basis of merits in accordance with the law.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI, told the bench that in its April 15 order, the court had prohibited publishing the DK Jain report. Mehta then sought permission to upload the FIR, which has the gist of the report, during the day.
“The earlier order only required CBI to ensure that committee’s report shouldn’t be made public,” the court in response to the request. “Now that CBI has finally decided to proceed in matter, further steps after FIR registration will be taken as per law and no directions are required in that regard.”
The court also decided to wound up the committee after Additional Solicitor General SV said that the government will be bound to paying the salaries and allowances to the panel’s expenditures. “We appreciate the efforts taken by the members of the committee, including the chairman”, the bench said.
The accused in the case, including former Kerala Director General of Police Siby Mathews, police officers S Vijayan and Thampi S Durga, have already filed bail petitions before the court.
The espionage case
Narayanan and six others were accused of transferring certain confidential documents on India’s space programme to Russia, Pakistan and other countries. The documents allegedly pertained to ISRO’s cryogenic programme.
The case was later handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation. In its final report to the chief judicial magistrate in April 1996, the CBI said there was not enough evidence to substantiate the accusations.
In 2015, Narayanan moved the Supreme Court seeking criminal and disciplinary action against the officers who allegedly framed him. In September 2018, the court said that Narayanan was a victim of the allegations made by the Kerala Police, and granted him a compensation of Rs 50 lakh.