A former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) scientist S Nambi Narayanan, who was charged with espionage in 1994, was given back his lost honour along with a hefty compensation of Rs 50 lakh by the Supreme Court on Friday. Before rapping Kerala Police, the apex court ruled that the arrest of the ISRO scientist was unnecessary and needless and it was more of a harassment and mental cruelty by the police.

Who is S Nambi Narayanan?

Narayanan rose to prominence in the 1970s when he introduced the liquid fuel rocket technology in India. It was a time when another famed scientist APJ Abdul Kalam was working on solid motors. He foresaw the need for the liquid fuel engines for ISRO’s future civilian space programmes. And after a push by then ISRO chairman, he went on to develop the liquid propellant motors.

Later in 1992, India had signed an agreement with Russia to procure the technology to develop cryogenic-based fuels for Rs 235 crore. However, the United States pressurised Russia to not to go through with the deal as the US was selling the technology at a much higher rate of Rs 950 crore. Russia, under the leadership of Boris Yeltsin, succumbed to the US’ pressure and refused to fulfil the agreement with India.

To bypass the monopoly of the US, India formulated a new agreement with Russia and ISRO reached a consensus with Kerala Hitech Industries Limited (Keltch) which agreed to provide the cheapest tender for fabricating the cryogenic engines. However, the deal could not materialise as the espionage scandal involving Nambi Narayanan rocked the nation in 1994.

What was the espionage case against Narayanan?

In 1994, Narayanan was charged with supplying highly confidential defence secrets of experiment with rocket and satellite launches to two Maldivian intelligence officers, Mariam Rasheeda and Fauzia Hassan. Narayanan, along with another scientist D Sasikumaran, was accused of selling ISRO secrets to other nations for millions.

Nambi Narayanan was arrested and spent 50 days in jail. In his statement, he said that during his time in jail he was forced to implicate the top brass of ISRO in the spying case and when he failed to c0mply, he was tortured.

Narayanan’s main complaint is that ISRO did not support him throughout the matter while the then ISRO chairman Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan stated that the space organisation could not interfere in a legal case.

Narayanan’s acquittal

In May 1996, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) dismissed the charges against Narayanan as phoney and later in April 1998, the Supreme Court dismissed them as well. After the acquittal, both the scientists were transferred from Thiruvananthapuram and given the desk jobs.

Narayanan retired in 2001 and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) ordered the government of Kerala to grant a compensation of Rs 1 crore to him. In September 2018, the Supreme Court finally ordered the state government to provide him Rs 50 lakh as compensation.

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