Thiruvananthapuram: A day after the Supreme Court delivered a historical judgment granting Rs 50 lakh compensation to former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan embroiled in an espionage scandal, he is “thoroughly happy”. The 76-year-old’s crusade of almost quarter a century has not left him weary. He nonchalantly drops the “timeline” of the spy case right from the day the Special Investigation Team arrested him.
He says it was his conscience and his faith which kept him going all these years. He stands vindicated after the three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra constituted a committee headed by former SC judge Justice D.K. Jain to inquire into the role of three police officers in the conspiracy against him. An alumnus of Princeton University, Mr Narayanan was ISRO’s project director for development of cryogenic technology when the Kerala Police arrested him accusing him of leaking official secrets to a spy racket involving two Maldivian women. In a freewheeling conversation with DC, Mr Narayanan bares his mind, despite being tired of repeatedly giving interviews, visitors streaming in to congratulate him and replying to phone calls.
Q: Will you be pressing any further charges against the three retired police officials in the SIT?
A: Justice D. K. Jain panel will be calling me, I guess. I am not going to press anything against any of the three. Reason being that once the fight is over,
there is nothing further to do. Looking from a humanitarian point of view,
I don’t know whether it was deliberately fabricated or they were forced to do it. But one thing is clear; a foolish person plotted this. Should I be talking about former ADGP and head of the SIT, Siby Mathews? You tell me. What I saw before me (when I was arrested and put behind bars) was him and then his team members. The interrogation just lasted for one and a half minutes.
Q: Did Mr Mathews ever apologise to you?
A: Well, I have neither told anyone nor written in my book, Ready to Fire — How India and I Survived the ISRO Spy Case, that Siby Mathews had apologised to me. Siby Mathews had come and met me thrice. He had never apologised to me; he remained firm that he had not done any wrong. I had asked him whether he was interested in meeting me. He had then said, ‘yes’. Do you think he came to meet me to ask, ‘how are you?’ It was not to offer sorry. What else, then? “Did you have your lunch?” He was feeling remorseful and was unable to sleep, I guess.
Q: Who are those erring officials mentioned in the judgment?
A: I feel that it is not only these three officials, Siby Mathews, and two retired superintendents, K.K. Joshua and S. Vijayan who have been termed as the “erring officials”, but the whole team comprising of Intelligence Bureau and even the media comprising veteran journalists. It’s under the National Security Act that the journalists who came up with the story should have been probed, but they maintained that it was their privilege. You cannot have an exemption. At least they can answer my questions. So I guess the Jain committee will approach everyone including those senior journalists. I don't know anyone who interrogated me. Probably, I can recall how they looked like, but unable to distinguish. But I vividly remember with a reprographic memory about a person named Jayaprakash who was in the IB team. I have mentioned in my book about his “uncivilised barbarous approach” towards me. I included his name in my book so that at least his children realise what sort of a person he is. He will not come before me as he lacks guts. They are practising and advocating false things.
Q: There were a dozen lawyers who had appeared for you in various courts ranging from the late V. G. Govindan Nair, V. S. Bhasurendran Nair, M. N. Sukumaran Nair, Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan, V. Giri, K. P. Dhandapani, C. Unnikrishnan, S. Muralidhar, K. K. Venugopal, Harish Salve, K. Parasaran to Unnikrishnan. Since you recall the timeline, any idea how much money you must have spent over the last 24 years fighting the case?
A: I am a very simple man. I am a retiree for the last 17 years or rather out of work since then. I survive on my pension, and my wife and I lead a simple life. I don't own a car for more than three decades. I have a scooter which I have been using for the last 14 years.
All the lawyers who had taken up my case have reached heights in their career. Now I am hoping that my current lawyer Unnikrishnan who has so far not taken any fees from me will reach more heights. I came to know about him when he ensured that the families of the fishermen killed by Enrica Lexie got `1 crore compensation. When I told him I don't know about his fees and this is what I can give you, he politely declined. Instead, he said it is a privilege for him to appear for me.
Q: You are supposed to receive the `50 lakh compensation within eight weeks. What next?
A: I am relaxed. I guess I will be receiving the cheque. I am proud of what I do and what I have done all these years. There have been several people who have helped me over the last 24 years in my battle towards victory. I will have to repay all of them, and I will be lucky if anything is remaining. I am relieved and happy. My conscience has always been clear that I have not done anything wrong. Secondly, I had faith in God. It was on 21 March 2001 when the National Human Rights Commission ordered to pay me Rs 10 lakh as “immediate interim relief” for being falsely implicated. But unfortunately, I received it only by April 2012.
Q: The other scientist, D. Sasikumar who was also implicated in the ISRO spy case has been silent all these years and has remained low-key. Why was that it was you who was the most targeted?
A: Sasikumar was my deputy in the cryogenics team. The whole team of six officials was wrongly implicated. Have anyone thought of the two Maldivian women (Fouzia Hassan and Mariam Rasheeda)? Has anyone bothered to find out what happened to them? (When informed that a leading vernacular daily and a news channel had carried news about them, he said he does not trust that news)
Q: A major biopic based on your tumultuous journey is on the cards by national award-winning director Ananth Mahadevan. He had tweeted on the SC judgment that he’s hoping to do justice to you and the story. How do you feel?
A: I am confident that it is going to be a wonderful film, very much looking forward to it. But I was not aware that Madhavan had tweeted (beaming). Currently, I am busy with another book in English which is going to be the interaction between the lawyers and the judges.