ISRO spy case | Supreme Court again adjourns CBI plea against advance bail for officials

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The CBI on Monday got its appeal in the Supreme Court against anticipatory bail granted to former intelligence and police officials accused in the ISRO frame-up case adjourned to January 28.

Appearing before a Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Additional Solicitor-General S.V. Raju, for the CBI, sought two weeks to file a rejoinder in the case.

The court fixed the next hearing on January 28.

This adjournment is the latest in a series in the case.

The case was previously adjourned after one of the senior lawyers appearing in the case was unwell. Mr. Raju had, at the time, not objected to the rescheduling of the hearing.

The top court had issued notice to the bailed out accused on November 22.

The CBI had earlier argued that there may be a “larger conspiracy involving foreign powers” in the ISRO frame-up case, which stalled the technology to develop the cryogenic engine by decades.

The agency has challenged the bail granted at the “threshold” of the investigation.

“The frame-up led to the arrest of scientists. The technology for the cryogenic engine was deliberately stalled for at least two decades… May be a larger conspiracy involving foreign powers… Grant of anticipatory bail at the threshold may harm the investigation,” Mr. Raju had submitted.

The High Court had granted anticipatory bail to P.S. Jayaprakash, Thampi S. Durga Dutt, Vijayan and R.B Sreekumar.

It had held that the accused “should not be made to face a similar situation of being forced to undergo the ignominy of being incarcerated in the prison for interrogation at this old age after their retirement for an incident that took place a quarter of the century ago.”

The High Court had noted that there was no “indication or material, apart from the rhetoric that a foreign power has a hand in persuading the petitioners,” to implicate the ISRO scientists in the case.

It had said that there was “not even a scintilla of evidence regarding the petitioners being influenced by any foreign power so as to induce them to hatch a conspiracy to falsely implicate the scientists” with the intention to stall the activities of the ISRO regarding the development of cryogenic engine. Unless there is specific material regarding their involvement, prima facie, it cannot be said that the officials were acting against the interests of the country, the court had noted.

The CBI had arraigned 18 people, including the petitioners, as accused in the ISRO case after a Supreme Court-appointed Justice D.K. Jain Committee found fault with them for booking cases against the scientists.

The committee also found that some of the accused were involved in the deliberate leaking of information to the media to create a narrative implicating the scientists and to arrest them without any material on record to show their involvement in the espionage.

These incidents and the consequent torture of Nambi Narayanan and K. Chandrasekharan in police custody required a detailed investigation, the committee had indicated.

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