New Delhi: A high-level committee, appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has completed its probe into alleged irregularities in the controversial S-Band spectrum deal between Devas Multimedia and Indian Space Research Organisation’s commercial arm Antrix Corporation.
The Prime Minister had on May 31, this year constituted a five-member high-level team (HLT) under the chairmanship of former Central Vigilance Commissioner Pratyush Sinha to examine various aspects of the controversial agreement between Antrix Pvt Ltd and Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd.
The HLT was also asked to identify the acts of “omission and commission” by government officials in signing the deal.
“The committee has completed its work,” ISRO said in a reply to an RTI query, adding that investigations were being carried out on the basis of the committee’s report.
The HLT was formed following the findings of a two-member high powered review committee (HPRC), constituted by the PMO on February 10, 2011, to review the technical, commercial, procedural and financial aspects of the S-Band deal.
The HPRC comprising B.K. Chaturvedi, Member, Planning Commission, who is a former Cabinet Secretary, and Prof Roddam Narasimha, Member, Space Commission, had submitted its report on March 12 this year.
However, ISRO declined to provide copies of the reports by HLT and HPRC, citing exemption clause of the transparency law.
“Since the investigations/proceedings based on the reports of the committees are still in progress as such the information sought is exempted from disclosure under Section 8 (1) (h) of the RTI Act,” it said.
The section bars disclosure of “information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders.”
The space agency had earlier said that “no competitive bidding” was followed for the deal signed in January 2005.
As per the deal, Antrix was to provide the crucial S-Band wavelength, which is primarily kept for strategic interests of the country, to Devas for running its digital multimedia service by leasing 90 per cent transponders on two satellites — GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A.
The company had to pay Antrix a total of USD 300 million (about Rs 1,500 crore) over a period of 12 years.
Antrix had signed the contract and got the sanction of the Space Commission and the Union Cabinet for the two satellites at the cost of nearly Rs 400 crore without informing them that bulk capacity would be leased to Devas.
In December 2009, ISRO ordered a review of the deal and, subsequently, the Space Commission recommended its annulment on July 2, last year.
According to the Terms of References, the HLT was asked to look into decision-making process relating to the deal and identify the role of persons for various acts of omission and commission besides suggesting future course of action.
The HLT members included secretaries of Department of Space, Telecommunications, Expenditure and Additional Secretary and Financial Adviser, Department of Space.
First Published: Sunday, November 13, 2011, 21:53