The Supreme Court on Friday said that it would hear on July 27 Central Bureau of Investigation’s plea challenging a Kerala High Court order that had set aside a 60-day time limit imposed on the anticipatory bail granted to Siby Mathews, the former director general of Kerala police, in the 1994 ISRO espionage case, Live Law reported.

The case against Mathews pertains to the wrongful arrest and custodial torture of ex-Indian Space Research Organisation scientist Nambi Narayanan.

Mathews and 17 other former Kerala Police and intelligence officers are facing a CBI inquiry for allegedly falsely implicating Narayanan and six others on the charges of spying for other countries in 1994.

On August 24, a trial court had granted Mathews a pre-arrest bail. His anticipatory bail, however, was limited to only 60 days, PTI reported. But the Kerala High Court in November quashed the order and set aside the 60-day time limit.

The CBI then moved the Supreme Court against the order. On Friday, the matter came up for hearing before a bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and JB Pardiwala, Live Law reported.

Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for the CBI, requested the bench that the current plea be tagged with other pending petitions filed by the central agency against the High Court’s order that had granted anticipatory bail to four other persons accused in the case.

In August, the Kerala High Court had granted anticipatory bail to the four accused officers observing that there was no “scintilla of evidence” against them.

The Supreme Court bench considered Raju’s request and said it would hear the matters on July 27.

ISRO espionage case

Narayanan and six others were accused of selling secrets pertaining to ISRO’s cryogenic programme to women who were allegedly spying for Russia, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and other countries.

He and two others – Bengaluru-based businessmen Chandrasekharan and SK Sharam – were arrested in November 1994 on charges of espionage. The case was later handed over to the CBI. In its final report to the chief judicial magistrate in April 1996, the CBI said there was lack of evidence to substantiate the accusations.

All the accused persons were acquitted by a division bench of the Kerala High Court. In its order, the court had said there was no need to take action against the former director general of police and retired superintendents of police KK Joshua and S Vijayan.

In 2015, Narayanan moved the Supreme Court seeking criminal and disciplinary action against the officers. He accused them of falsely implicating him in the case.

In September 2018, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court had said Narayanan was a victim of the allegations made by the Kerala Police.

The Supreme Court had said Narayanan’s arrest was “needless and unnecessary” and granted him a compensation of Rs 50 lakh for being subjected to mental cruelty in the case. Besides this, the National Human Rights Commission had recommended Rs 10 lakh compensation.

Narayanan had filed a writ petition before the Supreme Court to challenge the Kerala government’s decision to not take any action against erring police officers.