A lethal mix of sensational journalism and political score-settling in the then ruling party

The impending probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the alleged conspiracy that led to the "malicious prosecution" of former space scientist Nambi Narayanan in the infamous 1994 ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) spy scandal case has arguably threatened to open old wounds in the Congress in Kerala.

The Supreme Court (SC) had appointed Justice DK Jain to examine the circumstance that led to the "unjust condemnation" of Mr. Narayanan as a "spy and traitor". The CBI had earlier found that the Kerala Police had falsely arraigned the scientist, who was then a rising start in the ISRO, in the spy case.

The SC upheld the CBI's finding. It tasked the Jain committee to examine the law enforcers responsible for "the fabrication and their motive" to bring them to justice. On Thursday, the SC accepted the committee's recommendation to task the CBI to probe the matter.

A lethal mix of sensational journalism and political score-settling in the then ruling party had catalysed the scandal that resulted in tarnished reputations and shattered careers. Several people, including two Maldivian nationals, faced harsh interrogation and humiliating incarceration.

Congress Feud

The so-called spy scandal had erupted when factional feuding in the Congress was at its peak. The then Chief Minister K Karunakaran, who headed the ‘I’ group, faced a mutiny within his party. The ‘A’ group led by Oommen Chandy allegedly used the case to bait Karunkaran, leading to the latter's resignation.

Karunakaran's son K Muraleedharan, MP, welcomed the CBI inquiry. Truth had prevailed against long odds. The accusations had pained Karunakaran. He would reveal more after the CBI completed the probe.

BJP State president K. Surendran said Mr. Narayanan was the victim of the factional fighting in the Congress. The Congress had sacrificed the security interests of the nation and retarded its ambition of emerging as a space power. The CBI would expose Mr. Chandy's role in the scandal, he claimed.

Former State Police Chief Raman Srivastava, who Karunakaran was accused of shielding, welcomed the probe.

Former Director General of Police Siby Mathews and Superintendent of Police S Vijayan, who had investigated the case initially, said the Jain committee had not sought their version. The committee appeared to have relied solely on the allegations raised by Mr. Narayanan. They hoped the CBI would probe the matter fairly.