The Central Bureau of Intelligence (CBI) claimed before the Kerala High Court that Pakistan’s Intelligence Service Agency, ISI had a hand in Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) spy case framed up in 1994. The CBI raised this allegation during the hearing of the anticipatory bail pleas that the former police officers filed accused of framing ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan and another in spy case.
Throughout the case, CBI argued and accused the enemy nations of India and particularly the ISI in derailing and destroying the cryogenic technology at ISRO and India’s technological hub which become dysfunctional and crippled for 20 years.
During the argument, the court asked for any substantial evidence that could validate the role of ISI in this case. The CBI’s counsel asserted that evidence can be obtained in the lieu of the custodial interrogation of the accused. The counsel further claimed that if the interrogation isn’t permitted, it would lead to the annihilation of evidence.
The counsel who represented RB Sreekumar, the former officer at Intelligence Bureau indicted of torturing Nambi Narayanan, submitted that conspiracy involving foreign nations was never alleged at any instance in this spy case. Also, the possible role of foreign hands in jeopardizing Pakistan’s writ and creditability at the international level comes in the limelight.
In addition, the CBI counsel also submitted that the intelligence Bureau had filed a report that highlighted the linkage with the foreign contacts of Maldivian Fousiya Hussain and others. The counsel said that the report will be produced before the court in sealed order.
Chronology of events of 1994 espionage case and Indian police failures
The Supreme Court on Friday held that former ISRO scientist S. Nambi Narayanan was “arrested unnecessarily, harassed and subjected to mental cruelty” and ordered a probe into the role of blundering Kerala police officers. Here are the sequence of events
On Oct 1994, Maldivian national Mariam Rasheeda was arrested in Thiruvananthapuram for supposedly attaining secret drawings of ISRO rocket engines to sell to Pakistan. The following month, Nambi Narayanan, director of cryogenic project at ISRO, detained along with deputy director of ISRO D. Sasikumaran and Indian representative of a Russian space agency K. Chandrasekhar. S.K. Sharma, a labour contractor, and Fousiya Hasan, Maldivian friend of Rasheeda are also arrested.
Till January 1995, the Maldivian nationals continue to be in custody while ISRO scientists and businessmen were released on bail. After three month in Apr 1996, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) files report before a Kerala court, says espionage case is false and there was no evidence to back the charges.In May, the court accepts the CBI’s report and releases all the accused.
When in June 1996, Kerala government decides to conduct re-investigation of the case by the State police which was challenged by Chandrasekhar, the High Court of Kerala in November dismisses the challenge, upheld government’s notification which was later quelled by the Supreme Court.
In May 1998, the Supreme Court awards compensation of 1 lakh to Mr. Narayanan and others, who were discharged in the case and directed the state government to pay the amount. When Mr Narayanan approaches the National Human Rights Commission and claimed the compensation from state for the mental pain and torture during his detention during the alleged ISPRO spy case, the 72 year old accused received 50 lakhs after the SC order in 2018.
India’s blame game
India’s act of putting blame on Pakistan should not left us surprised given the fact that it has always played this card to distract attention from its perceived failures. When the investigation on erring Kerala police officers made them appear guilty of falsely accusing Mr Narayanan, placing blame on ISI and its supposedly negative role became an accessible option.
For years the Indian government has played a bold role in defaming Pakistan by accusing it for state sponsored terrorism and creating regional havoc which has marred the latter’s writ and international standing. Thus, Pakistan’s state institution needs to garner a proportionate counter blaming strategy to mitigate such allegation with prudence and latent power.