The imbroglio over the Antrix-Devas deal has taken a new turn, with the former Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman, Madhavan Nair, writing to the Prime Minister's Office demanding a fresh probe into the space spectrum agreement and its subsequent termination last year.
Last month, Mr. Nair and three other scientists were barred from holding any government post for their role in the controversial January 2005 deal.
The Department of Space has been “misleading” the Space Commission and the government, says the letter written last week to Minister of State in the PMO V. Narayanasamy. The action against the ISRO scientists was “ill-conceived” and implemented “under a cloud of secrecy.”
Mr. Nair told The Hindu that he called for a comprehensive review of the rationale for cancelling the contract and also an assessment of the losses — financial and technological — caused by the cancellation.
Though an internal investigation done by the B.N. Suresh Committee gave the scientists a “clean chit” in June 2010, the DoS presentation to the Space Commission in July that year did not reflect the panel's findings, Mr. Nair said.
In his letter, he refuted the DoS' allegations on several counts. As for the charge that the Insat Coordination Committee (ICC) was not consulted on the deal that involved the building of two exclusive satellites for Devas, he says: “As per the Satcom policy, the ICC had authorised the Department of Space to lease out transponder capacity to private users.”
On the claim that the Cabinet was not informed of the ISRO's contract with Devas, he says the notes before the then Space Commission and the Cabinet were on the lines similar to any other proposal for funding new communication satellites. “It was never the practice to mention the name of specific private users in such proposals.”
Two other committees set up by the Centre, which probed the deal in 2011, found lapses in the agreement. While Mr. Nair didn't fault the B.K. Chaturvedi and Roddam Narasimha Committee report, he said the second team, headed by the former Central Vigilance Commissioner, Pratyush Sinha, “condemned” the scientists before they had an opportunity to “prove our innocence.”