Two former top police officials in the rank of DGP and four others, who were part of the probe team in the ISRO spy case and were charged by the CBI for conspiring and fabricating of documents, heaved a sigh of relief on Friday as the Kerala High Court granted them anticipatory bail.
The CBI vehemently opposed it, but suffered a setback when Justice K. Babu granted anticipatory bail to former Kerala DGP Siby Mathews, former Gujarat DGP R.B. Sreekumar and four others – then probe officials of both the Kerala Police and the Intelligence Bureau.
The court, however, directed the six officials that they cannot travel abroad until further notice and asked for a security bond of Rs one lakh each as part of granting the anticipatory bail.
In July last year, the CBI registered an FIR with the Thiruvananthapuram Chief Judicial Magistrate’s Court against 18 people, all of whom had probed the case and include top former Kerala Police and IB officials, who have been charged with conspiracy and fabrication of documents.
The ISRO spy case surfaced in 1994 when S. Nambi Narayanan, then a top scientist at the ISRO unit here, was arrested on charges of espionage along with another senior ISRO official, two Maldivian women and a businessman, but he was exonerated by the CBI in 1995 and he rejoined the ISRO.
Mathews, who a decade back took voluntary retirement from the post of director general of police, then served a five-year term as Chief Information Commissioner before retiring and has settled in the state capital city.
Sreekumar’s role in the case was as deputy director of the Intelligence Bureau. His then colleague P.S. Jayaprakash also has got anticipatory bail.
Things changed for Narayanan after numerous long-drawn court battles when the Supreme Court in 2020 appointed a three-member committee headed by retired judge Justice D.K. Jain to probe if there was a conspiracy among the then police officials to falsely implicate Narayanan.
The new CBI team arrived in July last year and according to the directions of the apex court it has to find out if there was any conspiracy on the part of the probe teams of the Kerala Police and the IB to implicate Narayanan.
Narayanan has now received a compensation of Rs 1.9 crore from various agencies, including the Kerala government which in 2020 paid him Rs 1.3 crore and later awarded Rs 50 lakh as directed by the Supreme Court in 2018 and another Rs 10 lakh ordered by the National Human Rights Commission.
The compensation was because the former ISRO scientist had to suffer wrongful imprisonment, malicious prosecution and humiliation.
Though the then probe officials have managed to get a relief, their woes are not over as the case has now been posted for January 27 and all of them have been specifically asked to cooperate with the probe team, failing which their anticipatory bail could be cancelled.