The whole Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) scandal, in which the operator of India’s satellite fleet was penalised in May by an International Court of Arbitration to the tune of almost $1 billion, looks like it will be now caught up in a criminal investigation.
The allegations are covered under India’s 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code and relevant sections of Prevention of Corruption Act against them.
ISRO lost its case, brought by satellite capacity operator Devas Multimedia against an ISRO commercial subsidiary (Antrix), and which resulted in Devas being awarded its claim of $672 million, plus interest at 18 per cent p.a., and the case has been running since 2011.
Now India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed a formal ‘charge sheet’ against the former ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair. There is already an on-going investigation into the then Executive Director of Antrix, KR Sridhara Murthi.
Nair, in an interview on August 11th, said: “I have not seen [the CBI report] so I cannot react elaborately. But one thing which is surprising is that it is a non-issue on which the earlier government had conducted some enquiry based on which punishment has also been meted out to four senior scientists.”
Nair continued, saying: “The CAG then brought a report in which they say there is no financial loss, no spectrum sale nor any irregularity in the deal. This was even confirmed by the international court which declared the whole cancellation process as illegal and thereafter slapped a fine on the government. In that context, how anybody can file a charge sheet is really surprising. I need to see what exactly is the content of the same and then probably opt for a legal course of action which will take its own time. From whatever records I have, there is no irregularity and no illegal action from our side. If at all anything illegal has taken place, it had to do with cancellation of that said contract. So if at all, someone has to be prosecuted, it should be those people who cancelled it.”
The Times of India newspaper, in its August 12th report on the matter said that Nair, and others, would face trial.