New Delhi, Sep 14 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Friday awarded Rs 50 lakh compensation to former ISRO scientist S. Nambi Narayanan who was falsely implicated in an espionage case and had to suffer wrongful imprisonment, malicious prosecution and humiliation.
Awarding the compensation, a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud also directed the setting up of a committee to inquire into the role of erring officials who Narayanan said had implicated him in the alleged Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) spy case.
The compensation amount "shall be" paid by Kerala government within eight weeks, the court said.
The committee would be headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice D.K. Jain and have a representative each from the Centre and the Kerala government.
The committee would function from Delhi but it was given the option to hold meetings in Kerala as well. The central government has been made responsible for providing the facilities to the committee.
While awarding compensation by invoking public law remedy, the court said that Narayanan could proceed with the civil suit he had filed for compensation.
"We hasten to clarify that the appellant, if so advised, may proceed with the civil suit wherein he has claimed more compensation," the court said.
"The dignity of a person gets shocked when psycho-pathological treatment is meted out to him," Chief Justice Misra said, speaking for the bench.
"A human being cries for justice when he feels that the insensible act has crucified his self-respect. That warrants grant of compensation under the public law remedy."
Chief Justice Misra further said that there was no doubt that Narayanan - a successful scientist - enjoying national reputation was compelled to undergo immense humiliation.
The lackadaisical attitude of the Kerala Police made him suffer.
The court verdict came on a plea by Narayanan seeking a probe into the false case filed by the Kerala Police and other agencies.
He moved the top court challenging a Kerala High Court judgment that upheld the state government's decision not to take action against the officials who falsely implicated the scientist in the case in the mid-90s.
Rejecting the contention that the fault should not lie with the police but with the CBI to whom the case was transferred, the court said: "The criminal law was set in motion without any basis. It was initiated, if one is allowed to say, on some kind of fancy or notion."
"The liberty and dignity of the appellant which are basic to his human rights were jeopardized as he was taken into custody and, eventually, despite all the glory of the past, he was compelled to face cynical abhorrence."
The court noted that the "entire prosecution initiated by the State police was malicious and it has caused tremendous harassment and immeasurable anguish" to Narayanan.
The 'erring' state government officials include then Inspector General of Police Siby Mathews and then Deputy Superintendents of Police K.K. Joshua and S. Vijayan.
The ISRO spy case surfaced in 1994 when Narayanan was arrested on charges of espionage along with another senior official of ISRO, two Maldivian women and a businessman.
The CBI cleared him in 1995 and since then he has been fighting a legal battle against Siby Mathews and the other officials who probed the case.
Narayanan approached the apex court after a Kerala High Court bench dismissed a single bench order that directed the Kerala government to take action against three retired police officers who had implicated and arrested him.
Reacting to the verdict, the veteran space scientist, who spent 50 days in jail, said he hoped the committee will finish the job in three to six months.
"Today's verdict is better than before. Let the committee come out with the conspiracy behind all this. With this verdict, the police officials should realise that they cannot escape the actions of what they do," he said.