More than a month after the Supreme Court of India ordered the Kerala government to pay a compensation of Rs 50 lakh to scientist Nambi Narayanan for being falsely accused in the infamous 1994 ISRO espionage case, one of the six co-accused, SK Sharma, passed away in the early hours of Thursday.
62-year-old SK Sharma, a labour contractor based in Bengaluru, who was also wrongly tried as a co-accused in the case, passed away on Thursday at a private hospital in the city. He was suffering from a severe form of oesophagus cancer. He is survived by his wife and daughter.
Sharma was arrested by the Kerala police following the arrest of his friend and scientist K Chandrasekhar. Chandrasekhar was wrongly accused of selling Indian-made rocket designs to Pakistan via a Maldivian national. Sharma was charged by Kerala police and Intelligence Bureau (IB) as a party to the case.
The Supreme Court had acquitted Sharma in 1998 with a compensation of Rs 1 lakh. A case of defamation against the Kerala government and state police is still ongoing.
Incidentally, Chandrasekhar had slipped into coma on September 14 just hours before the Supreme Court delivered its verdict. He passed away two days later, on September 16.
More than 24 years after the case was framed, several conspiracy theories were spun around the cases, including that of the American involvement to thwart the progress of ISRO and Indiaâ€™s space partnership with Russia. Another prominent theory was that AK Antony, the former Defence Minister from Kerala, was behind the sinister plan to upset his party colleague and rival K Karunakaran, then Chief Minister of Kerala.
The case took shape with the arrest of a Maldivian national Mariam Rashida, who was nabbed by police for illegally extending her stay in India. The simple case of overstaying her visa turned into the biggest spy scandal of India till date, involving two senior ISRO scientists, two businessmen and two women. By 1996, the CBI had concluded that the case was fabricated by three police officers and the Intelligence Bureau, which was heading the investigation.
Speaking about his â€śguilty by associationâ€ť in an interview with the Huffington Post, Sharmaâ€™s daughter Monisha, said, â€śChandrasekhar uncle told my father that there are these two women from the Maldives, and one of them is trying to get school admission for her child. She was already cheated, by an agent who had promised to help.â€ť
Since Sharma knew the principal of a school, on Chandrasekharâ€™s request, he managed to get the child an admission, without any donation. â€śThat is how he knew these two women,â€ť added Monisha.