But Centre will not leap into a probe
The United Progressive Alliance government, while ruling out withdrawal of its order debarring four space scientists from holding any government post or being on any official committees for their role in the Antrix-Devas Multimedia deal, is in no hurry to investigate any possible illegitimate financial gain by these or any other officials, government sources indicated.
This, despite the Pratyush Sinha committee, which went into the controversial deal, recommending not only debarring the four but also investigating whether any of them obtained any pecuniary advantage.
The logic for this, government sources said, was: in the shadow of the 2G scam, the Prime Minister's Office did not want to be seen as disregarding the report which had recommended debarring the former ISRO chairman, G. Madhavan Nair; the former scientific secretary at ISRO, A. Bhaskaranarayana; the former executive director of Antrix, the commercial arm of ISRO, K.R. Sridharamurthi; and the former director of the ISRO satellite centre, K.N. Shankara, from holding any government post.
On the other hand, the government did not want to leap into an investigation without a thorough examination of the Sinha Report, especially by the Union Law Ministry, “to ensure that the scientific community does not get demoralised,” the sources said.
The case of the battle between Army Chief V.K. Singh and the government over his date of birth was being cited: bad blood has already been created between the government and the Army: now the government did not want a repeat with the scientific community, they said.
But there were those within the Congress who felt that not only was the analogy with the case of the army misplaced, what was being questioned in the Antrix-Devas deal was not a scientific decision, but a commercial one.
“If there is any charge of financial impropriety, as indicated in the Sinha Report, the case should be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation without delay,” a senior Congress source told The Hindu, adding, “let's not make the mistake made in the 2G case. It's nonsense to say someone will be demoralised. If it turns out that there are no benami holdings, no irregularities, then we will know that it was just an error of judgment.”
These sources pointed out that it was imperative for the government to act before someone decided to file a Public Interest Litigation petition in the case.
Indeed, the Sinha report said: “In order to get a clear picture of the changing pattern of Devas, the non-legitimate financial/pecuniary interest, if any, of various individuals and officials concerned, the extent to which the increase in share value has been encashed by individuals, the share holding of the company and of the Mauritius-based entities and any possible illegitimate financial gain by officials concerned need to be looked into by an appropriate investigative agency.”