By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Oommen Chandy Government has, for once, been constrained to act on an adverse verdict from the Kerala High Court, this time in the infamous ISRO espionage case.
In the normal course, the Chief Minister would have chosen to ignore the HC verdict. He has done so on many earlier occasions despite public profession of having the greatest respect for court verdicts.
The High Court order was in response to a petition filed by former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan who had been an accused in the infamous ISRO spy case. Narayanan had challenged the Chandy Government’s decision not to take action against the state police officers who had investigated the spy case. The three police officers – former ADGP Sibi Mathews and two retired SPs, Joshua and S. Vijayan – were held responsible by the CBI for the illegal arrest of Narayanan, and the CBI had recommended to the state government action against them. But the Chandy Government refrained from acting on the CBI order.
The charge against Narayanan was that he had leaked sensitive information to foreign agencies. He had been acquitted by the Supreme Court based on the CBI report.
The High Court has asked the State Government to reconsider the order to let off the three police officers and take appropriate action within three months.
There is another reason why the CM has been forced to take action in the case. The court verdict has created a rift in the Congress with the I group led by Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala, demanding action against the police officers. The I group has never forgiven the A group headed by Oommen Chandy for utilizing the spy case to oust the then Chief Minister K. Karunakaran from the chief minister’s post.
Another factor which has compelled the CM to act on the HC verdict is the pressure from K. Muralidharan, MLA, the son of Karunakaran, who wrote to the CM demanding action against the ‘guilty’ police officers.
Incidentally, both Murali and Padmaja, daughter of Karunakaran feel that the Chandy Government’s refusal to act against the police officers was an act of gross injustice to Karunakaran. Significantly, both Murali and Padmaja have formally joined the I group, strengthening the anti-Oommen Chandy forces in the group fight within the Congress.
In view of the adverse HC verdict and changed equations within the State Congress, the CM has no option but to bow to the wishes of the rival group to take action. Needless to say, the coming together of all Karunakaran loyalists under the I group umbrella is a development which cannot but cause utmost concern to Oommen Chandy, who has so far enjoyed unchallenged supremacy in the state party.
The response of KPCC president V M Sudheeran will also be crucial. So far, the KPCC chief has not commented officially on the HC order. In case, he supports the I group’s stance in the matter, it will further weaken Chandy’s position. (IPA)