On October 20, 1994 the Kerala police arrested a Maldivian woman named Mariam Rasheeda on charges of over staying in India after her visa expired. Soon, the visa case metamorphosed into the biggest sex-spy scandal of the country, implicating two senior ISRO scientists, two businessmen and two women. The scientists and businessmen were accused of selling ISRO's cryogenic programme secrets to the women who were allegedly acting as spies for Russia, ISI and others.
One of the accused was Nambi Narayanan, a top scientist at ISRO, who has since fought a long, lonely battle against the mighty state to prove his innocence.
More than six years after Rasheedaâ€™s arrest, the Supreme Court of India upheld a CBI investigation which concluded that the so-called sex scandal had been fabricated by three police officers from Kerala who first investigated the case and reprimanded the Kerala government over the whole episode.
Several years after the Supreme Courtâ€™s direction, the Kerala government has done nothing to initiate action against the investigating officers who fabricated the entire sex scandal.
In February 2015, the Kerala High Court once again directed the state government to initiate action against those who set in motion the whole ordeal for those implicated. The case is now pending in the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the CBIâ€™s closure report which was filed in 1996 has reemerged in the public domain, confirming the allegations that officers of the Intelligence Bureau and Kerala police cooked up the case.
The closure report filed in 1996 said, â€śThe investigation carried out by the CBI has disclosed that no ISRO documents were secreted out nor any money paid to or received by the accused persons arrested by the police. The internal audit made by the ISRO indicates that the documents and drawings running into several thousands relating to ISRO are intact; nothing has been found missing which could have had a bearing on national security.â€ť
The report however also goes on to strongly indict officials of the Kerala police and IB, stating that they â€śacted in an unprofessional manner, (and) were privy to the arrest of six innocent persons, thereby causing immense mental and physical agony. The senior officers who were supervising and monitoring the enquiries, particularly, Mathew John, Joint Director and R.B. Sreekumar (Deputy Director) failed in their duty to conduct the inquiry in an objective and fair mannerâ€¦leading to serious complications, including casting doubts on the integrity of two top ISRO scientists who were responsible for developing the PSLV projects and launching our country into the space.â€ť
Nambi Narayanan had met Narendra Modi in Thiruvananthapuram in September 2013. After this meeting, the BJP had demanded prosecution of IB officers who were involved in the investigation of ISRO espionage case.
Even as the demand for action to be taken against the Kerala police officers in pending in the court, and there are calls for investigating the IB officers too, Narayanan is asking important questions â€“ why is no one investigating the motive of the officers? Why was the case fabricated?
Speaking to The News Minute, Nambi Narayanan says, â€śIt has been proved beyond doubt that the case was fabricated, and thatâ€™s why I am fighting a case to take action against the concerned officers. But the larger question is this: What was their motive?â€ť
One of the devastating fallouts of the fabricated ISRO spy case was the impact it had on Indiaâ€™s cryogenic engine development programme. â€śBecause of the fake scandal, we have been pushed back by at least 15-20 years. India could have been a global leader in the sector. Who benefitted from the fake scandal?â€ť
Narayanan says that if there was any involvement of a foreign agency in the scandal, it must be brought to light. â€śThe CBI closure report has been available for years, but it did not get any publicity. Now, the government must set up a committee - of people from RAW, IB and CBI- to find out who was behind the scandal in the larger interest of the nation."
Nambi Narayananâ€™s book on the ISRO fake scandal, co-authored by him, is to be published and released in the coming months.