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CBI summons ex-ISRO chief G Madhavan Nair, others as accused in Antrix-Devas deal case

A CBI special court on Saturday summoned former ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair and others as accused in the Antrix-Devas deal case.

Special judge Virender Kumar Goyal directed Nair, A Bhaskar Narayana Rao, the then-director in ISRO, KR Sridhar Murthy, the then-executive director of Antrix, former additional secretary in the Department of Space (DoS) Veena S Rao and others to appear before the court in New Delhi on 23 December.

The court passed the directions after taking cognisance of the CBI chargesheet filed in the matter.

File image of Madhavan Nair. CNN-News18

File image of Madhavan Nair. CNN-News18

The CBI had earlier informed the court that sanction to prosecute the former public servants had been obtained from the authorities concerned in June.

The agency had filed an FIR on 16 March, 2015 against Nair and others accusing them of facilitating "wrongful" gain of Rs 578 crore to private multi-media company Devas by Antrix, the commercial arm of ISRO.

The probe agency had on 11 August last year filed a charge sheet against the accused, alleging they had caused a loss of Rs 578 crore to the exchequer by abusing their official position to favour a private company.

The case relates to leasing of S-Band, a restricted wavelength of the INSAT satellites to deliver video, multimedia and information services to mobile receivers in vehicles and mobile phones to Devas Multimedia by Antrix.

As explained in this Firstpost piece, Antrix reportedly got into a 12-year $ 300 deal with a private company called Devas for leasing out 90 percent of the transponders of two of its satellites, CSAT-6 and GSAT-6A. When ready, Devas would use them for running digital multimedia services. Apparently, Antrix had got the clearance of the Space Commission and the Union Cabinet for the two satellites, but hadn't informed them about the bulk purchase by Devas.

In the wake of the 2G scam at the time, media reports started appearing featuring this as the next big spectrum scandal because the transponders that Devas had hired would require chunks of S-band spectrum, an "expensive and evolving" commodity. It was, however, not clear if the agreement included the allotment of S-band spectrum, which was highly improbable because Antrix had no jurisdiction on that.

The Antrix-Devas deal saw an early exit of Nair as ISRO chairman since he was the head of Antrix Governing Council when the deal was finalised in January 2005.

In an interview to Firstpost in 2012, Nair had said: “The biggest crime that is accused on us is that we didn’t keep the government informed about the contract with Devas. But as per the Antrix bylaws, we are not required to inform the government about every single contract we sign. We are answerable only to the Board." Going by this logic, “every contract that the Indian Oil Corporation or BHEL signs should be intimated to the government,” he said. “It is a silly reason”.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Sep 16, 2017 16:35 PM

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