Supreme Court rules in favour of Isro scientist in ‘spy scandal’

Awards Nambi Narayanan Rs5 million compensation for arrest, harassment and mental cruelty

Thiruvananthapuram: Former Kerala chief minister, the late K. Karunakaran’s bitter experiences over a murky ‘spy scandal’ were brought back into limelight on Friday, when India’s apex court ordered compensation to be paid to a scientist wrongly indicted in the case.


Reputed space scientist Nambi Narayanan — who worked with the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) — was arrested in 1994, charged with spying when he was in charge of the cryogenics division. He and another scientist, D. Sasikumaran, were accused of leaking vital defence secrets to Maldivian women.

On Friday, a bench of the Supreme Court of India, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, ruled that Narayanan be given Rs5 million in compensation for being “arrested unnecessarily, harassed and subjected to mental cruelty”.

The arrest and the lengthy court battles destroyed the career of Narayanan, now in his seventies, once considered one of the brightest Indian scientists in the domain of liquid fuel rocket technology.

The scientist had approached the court for a probe against the police officials who were involved in framing him. The probe was led by senior police officials Sibi Mathews, K.K. Joshua and S. Vijayan, who are all retired now. In a victory for Narayanan, the apex court ordered a three-member panel to be set up to inquire into the framing of Narayanan.

One of the indirect victims of the spy case was the then Kerala chief minister, K. Karunakaran, who was pressurised to quit his post in the scandal’s wake.

Reacting to the court verdict, Karunakaran’s son and Congress lawmaker K. Muraleedharan said his father was “the only one who did not get justice in the spy case”.

Muraleedharan claimed his father was poised to lead the Congress in the backdrop of minorities’ disaffection towards the then prime minister Narasimha Rao, over Babri Masjid’s demolition in 1992.

Murlaeedharan said Rao had “cheated” Karunakaran by giving him an unimportant post in Delhi, thus sidelining him.

Karunakaran’s daughter and Congress leader Padmaja Venugopal said it was a “group of five who conspired against Karunakaran”.

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