The ISRO-Devas episode resulting in tarnishing the images of four of our most outstanding Space scientists — one of whom, Dr. Sridharamurthy, I know personally since 1990 (when I assumed charge as ISRO Professor of international Space Law at JNU, New Delhi), and for whom I have great regard — highlights one issue that has not surfaced in the current debates. India is one of the countries with a strong space programme. It is a party to many international space treaties. In a paper I submitted to ISRO in 1995, I contended that there was an urgent need for a space law to be enacted by Parliament, whether pursuant to Article 253 of the Constitution or otherwise on the strength of the Union List. I was sure Parliament would not be moved unless there was a pressing problem before the government of the day. The current ISRO-Devas debate precisely underscores the need for a law and procedure to be laid down under that law.
Since the establishment of ISRO in 1962, its activities have expanded considerably. But successive governments did not consider it necessary to pronounce a Space Policy, enact a law governing commercial and non-commercial activities (even when they permitted the creation and functioning of a Government Corporation, namely the Anrix Corporation), and lay down proper procedures therefor. Had any government done so, much of the current problems could have been avoided. There are many space-faring nations in the world today which have enacted their own space legislation. So much for a country that swears by the Rule of Law!
Much of the media has, as usual, gone overboard for the sensational. Indeed, it has equally failed to examine whether the eminent scientists have amassed wealth disproportionate to their known sources of income. How else would you talk of a “scam”? I am not even sure of the correctness of The Hindu's conclusion that Devas was a palpably bad deal, without adequately understanding the technical aspects of the deal. All credit of tarnishing the reputation of these scientists without even giving them a right to be heard must, however, lie at the door of the Government of India.
Former Professor of International Space Law,Jawaharlal Nehru University,New Delhi
We thank Business Line, business daily of The Hindu group, for giving a wake-up call to the government, resulting in the annulment of the short-sighted Antrix-Devas deal. As the editorial “Watch this space” (Jan. 31) suggests, fixing the responsibility on only four ISRO officials, one of whom is a reputed person who brought laurels to the organisation, overlooking the ultimate responsibility of the Space Commission, is unacceptable.
This refers to the article “Delhi, we have a problem” (Jan. 31). The most amusing, yet striking, aspect of the Antrix-Devas issue is that the Space Commission, which oversees the implementation of space programmes, did not know about the multi-crore deal.