New Delhi: Former ISRO chief G Madhavan Nair, who is under scanner for irregularities in the Antrix-Devas spectrum deal has said that there was nothing wrong in his decision and it only came under probe because PMO acted panicky after 2G spectrum scam surfaced.
A report in Times of India states Nair as saying, “there was a panicky reaction from the PMO (which was headed by Manmohan Singh) since 2G spectrum scam involving A Raja dented the image of government at that time.”
In 2005, Antrix, the marketing arm of ISRO, allocated S-band transponders amounting 70 MHz on two ISRO satellites (GSAT 6 and GSAT 6A) to Devas Multimedia (a private company formed by former ISRO employees) for Rs 1400 crore. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) estimated that if the band was auctioned in 2010, it could've fetched the government an amount of Rs 2,00,000 crore.
The spectrum was allocated to Devas Multimedia on an exclusive basis while rules said it should always be non-exclusive. The Space Commission was kept in the dark while taking approval for the second satellite and its cost was diluted so that Cabinet approval was not needed.
Post the deal, the shareholding value of Devas Multimedia skyrocketed and most of the investors in the company were former ISRO scientists.
After reports of irregularities in the Antrix-Devas deal, the government had ordered a probe by a five-member committee in 2011 headed by then CVC Pratyush Sinha. He had indicted the officials of the space body claiming "there have not only been serious administrative and procedural lapses but also suggestion of collusive behaviour on the part of certain individuals and accordingly, responsibilities have to be fixed for taking action."
Nair has questioned the CBI probe and said the committee led by CVC and CAG auditor made mistakes by raising fingers at the deal where there were no irregularities and nobody was favoured.
It is worth a note that in his book "Not Just An Accountant", former CAG Vinod Rai has said, “The loss figure had no basis and, hence, we dropped it".
On CBI's allegation that the Cabinet was kept in the dark about the approval of space commission Nair said that the agreement was signed according to the rules laid down in the Allocation of Business Rules (of the government) of that time and it was company board's prerogative to take the decision. He said that as per the rules, there was no need to take approval of the Cabinet.
In its FIR last week, CBI, while naming then executive director of Antrix Corporation Limited R Sridhara Murthi, two officials of USA-based company Forge Advisors LLC, Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd and unknown officials of Antrix Corporation, Indian Space Research Organisation/Department of Space has alleged that 'by signing the deal with Devas, the ISRO/Antrix officials caused a wrongful gain of Rs 578 crore to Devas Multimedia'.
Nair, who was barred from holding any government post after the CVC report, has not been named in the FIR but he might be examined soon as deal had his approval.
CBI has alleged that when a proposal seeking budgetary support of Rs 269 crore for approving design, manufacture and launch of GSAT-6/INSAT-4E (PS1) was placed in the 104th meeting of the Space Commission on May 26, 2005, it was not informed that the agreement had already taken place with Devas for lending out the S-Band.
The CBI FIR ads, "Information regarding the agreement between Antrix and Devas was suppressed from the Cabinet and the wrong information regarding utilization of satellite capacity was given to the Cabinet with respect to multiple expressions of interest though the agreement was signed with Devas without any multiple expressions of interest. The proposal was approved by the Cabinet in December 2005."
CBI said in its FIR that after alleged omissions and commissions on the part of accused persons surfaced, the agreement dated January 28, 2005 was annulled by Antrix Corporation in accordance with the decision of the Cabinet Committee on Security headed by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.