The Supreme Court on Friday, December 2, 2022, canceled the anticipatory bail granted by the Kerala High Court to former police and intelligence officers, including former Director General of Kerala Police Siba Mathews, accused of involvement in a conspiracy to implicate ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan in the 1994 espionage case.
A bench headed by Justice M.R. Shah referred the preliminary bail pleas of the accused officers to the High Court for reconsideration.
In its judgment, the Supreme Court directed the High Court Registry to refer the case to the appropriate High Court Bench within a week of December 2.
The High Court has been asked to hear the case and make a final decision at the earliest but not earlier than four weeks.
Justice Shah accompanied by Justice C.T. Ravikumar on the Bench protected the accused from arrest for another five weeks on the condition that they cooperate with the investigation and without prejudice to the investigating agencies until the Supreme Court takes a final decision on their anticipatory bail.
The Bench asked the High Court to decide their pleas without being affected by the interim arrangement.
The bench said it did not comment on the merits of the case. It was left to the High Court to pass an appropriate order on the anticipatory bail applications in accordance with the law after considering the merits.
The CBI challenged the bail granted by the Kerala High Court to the accused, including Mr. Mathews, PS Jayaprakash, Thampi S Durga Dutt, Vijayan, and R B Sreekumar.
The CBI, which appealed the bail in the Supreme Court, argued that there was a possibility of a “larger conspiracy involving foreign powers” that had set back the development of cryogenic engine technology by decades.
The agency challenged the bail granted to the accused at the very “threshold” of its investigation.
“The framing led to the arrest of the scientists.” Cryogenic engine technology has been deliberately put on hold for at least two decades… There may be a larger conspiracy involving foreign powers… Granting anticipatory bail at the doorstep may vitiate the investigation,” added Additional Attorney General S.V. Raju submitted for the CBI during the hearing.
Granting anticipatory bail, the High Court observed that “there is not even a hint of evidence” to suggest that the former police and intelligence officials were influenced by any extraneous power to induce them to hatch a conspiracy to implicate them. scientists with the intention of halting ISRO’s cryogenic engine development activities.
The CBI has named 18 people as accused in the case after the Supreme Court-appointed Justice D.K. The Jain Committee found fault with them for booking cases against scientists.
The committee also found that some of the accused were involved in deliberate leaks to the media to create a narrative involving the scientists and arrest them without any material on record to prove their involvement in the alleged espionage.