Chennai: A five-member
team that probed the controversial Antrix-Devas deal has indicted
former ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair and three other scientists
for the controversial contract that resulted in an estimated loss
of Rs.2 lakh crore, while another panel has disputed the CAG's
estimation of the loss amount.
The five-member team, chaired by former Central Vigilance
Commissioner (CVC) Pratyush Sinha, concluded that there have been
serious lapses of judgement on the part of various officials, and
in some cases the actions verged on the point of breach of public
trust in the deal between the Indian space agency's commercial arm
Antrix and Devas Multimedia.
However, a two-member High Powered Review Committee has contested
the loss projection by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG)
and has also has ruled out cheap selling of spectrum to Devas. The
panel comprised B.K. Chaturvedi and Roddam Naraimha.
The other three Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)
scientists indicted by the Sinha panel are: A. Bhaskaranarayana,
former scientific secretary at ISRO, K.R. Sridharamurthi, former
executive director of Antrix, and K.N. Shankara, former director
of the ISRO satellite centre.
As per the deal, Antrix was to provide 70 MHz S-Band spectrum to
Devas, which is into multimedia services. Antrix would provide the
spectrum by leasing out transponders of two satellites to be built
mainly for Devas.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) estimated the loss to
the exchequer was to the tune of Rs.2 lakh crore because of the
deal. The centre later scrapped the controversial deal.
ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan had announced that the reports of
two committees that looked into the controversial deal would be
Late Saturday, ISRO uploaded on its website the conclusions and
recommendations of both the panels.
Holding Nair, Bhaskaranarayana, Sridharamurthi and Shankara as
mainly responsible for leading the Department of Space (DOS) and
Antrix for the contract, the Sinha committee has recommended to
the government to take action against them under pension rules or
any other provisions of law.
The committee also recommended actions under pension rules against
retired officials S.S. Meenakshisundaram and Veena Rao, and
against G. Balachandran and R.G. Nadadur under service rules.
It also recommended investigation by an appropriate agency to look
into the changing pattern of ownership of Devas, the illegal
financial benefit derived by individuals and officials, and the
extent to which the increased valuation of Devas shares were
encashed by individuals.
The committee also recommended investigation into the shareholding
pattern of Devas and that of two Mauritius-based companies owning
shares in Devas.
Earmarking two satellites for the Antrix-Devas deal without
consulting INSAT Coordination Committee is a clear violation of
the government policy, the panel said.
While the policy is to allow use of satellites by non-government
users on non-exclusive basis, the Antrix deal with Devas provides
for exclusive use of two custom-built satellites leaving no scope
for alternate use.
The Sinha Committee said the approval process for the deal was
riddled with incomplete and inaccurate information given to the
Union cabinet and the Space Commission.
The date of agreement signed with Devas -- Jan 28, 2005 -- was not
disclosed to the Space Commission or in the cabinet note in which
sanction for building GSAT-6, one of the two satellites, was
The committee said the existence of an agreement with Devas was
not disclosed to the cabinet when sanction was sought to build the
second satellite GSAT-6A.
On the argument that there was no need to involve the Space
Commission in the Devas deal as the decision was taken by Antrix,
the Sinha Committee said the commitment was to spend Rs.766 crore
for launching and operating the satellites.
The committee also concluded that the terms of the contract was
heavily loaded in favour of Devas.
According to the committee, any international agreement signed by
a government department with arbitration clause has to be cleared
by the legal cell of the department concerned and by the ministry
This was not done in the Antrix-Devas deal.
The two-member High Powered Review Committee, while it said that
the deal may not have resulted in huge revenue loss for the
government, did hold the chairman of the Antrix Board, secretary
of the Department of Space, member finance of the Space Commission
and director of SATCOM at ISRO primarily responsible for financial
and strategic gaps in the deal.
The committee said the chairman of ISRO and the Antrix Board who
finalised several areas of the Antrix-Devas deal must also share
the responsibility for some of the gaps.
The central government Jan 13 had banned Nair, Bhaskaranarayana,
Shankara and Sridharamurthi, from holding any government jobs or
any membership in a government committee.
Nair, who had been awarded Padma Bhushan in 1998 and Padma
Vibhushan in 2009, said ISRO's current chairman Radhakrishnan was
behind the government's ban order.
He said he was not given an opportunity to present his case before
the ban order was issued by the government.