The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a high-level probe to put to task the erring cops for arresting and causing "tremendous harassment" and "immeasurable anguish" to ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan in the 1994 espionage case and asked the Kerala government to pay Rs 5 million to him as a compensation for undergoing "immense humiliation".
Terming the police action against 76-year old former scientist of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) as "psycho-pathological treatment", a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said his "liberty and dignity", basic to his human rights, were jeopardised as he was taken into custody and, eventually, despite all the glory of the past, was compelled to face "cynical abhorrence".
"There can be no scintilla of doubt that the appellant, a successful scientist having national reputation, has been compelled to undergo immense humiliation. The lackadaisical attitude of the state police to arrest anyone and put him in police custody has made the appellant to suffer the ignominy.
"The dignity of a person gets shocked when psycho-pathological treatment is meted out to him. A human being cries for justice when he feels that the insensible act has crucified his self-respect," the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said.
Welcoming the judgement, the former scientist said the Kerala police had "fabricated" the case and insisted that the technology he was accused to have stolen and sold in the 1994 case did not even exist at that time.
"The Supreme Court has clearly stated that it was an illegal arrest. It also identifies and acknowledges the suffering and humiliation I have gone through.
"The highest court of the country has accepted what I said. They (Kerala police) fabricated the case. The technology they said I stole and sold did not even exist then," he said, responding to the order.
Narayanan had approached the top court against the Kerala High Court order which said no action was required to be taken against former DGP Siby Mathews and two retired superintendents of police K K Joshua and S Vijayan, who were later held responsible by the CBI for the scientist's illegal arrest.
The espionage case, which hit the headlines in 1994, pertained to allegations of transfer of certain confidential documents on India's space programme to foreign countries by two scientists and four others, including two Maldivian women.
While awarding Rs 50 lakh compensation to be paid by the Kerala government in eight weeks to Narayanan, the apex court said it was being given "to compensate the suffering, anxiety".
It also allowed him to simultaneously pursue his pending civil suit for further compensation.
The bench said the "reputation of an individual is an insegregable facet of his right to life with dignity" and rejected the plea of Kerala government that due to the lapse of time, no inquiry and subsequent actions needed to be taken against the erring officials.
It accepted the plea of Narayanan that the authorities who have been responsible to cause such kind of "harrowing effect" on his mind should face the "legal consequences".
"We think that the obtaining factual scenario calls for constitution of a Committee to find out ways and means to take appropriate steps against the erring officials," the bench said.
It ordered the formation of a three-member committee headed by its former judge Justice D K Jain to take appropriate steps against the erring officials and directed the Centre and the state government to nominate one officer each to the panel. The seat of the committee would be at New Delhi.
"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 bench said.
"We are of the view that the appellant was arrested and he has suffered custody for almost fifty days. His arrest has been seriously criticised in the closure report of the CBI. From the aforesaid report, the harassment and mental torture faced by the appellant is obvious," the bench said.