New Delhi: In a significant development, the government on Thursday decided to terminate a controversial deal regarding the allocation of S-band spectrum between ISRO’s commercial arm Antrix and a private firm Devas Multimedia Private Limited.
Addressing a press conference here, Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily said, "There has been an increased demand in the allocation of spectrum for national needs, including the needs for paramilitary forces, railways and other public utility services as well as for societal needs. And having the requirements, the government cannot afford to hand over this kind of a S-band even to Antrix for commercial activities."
"Therefore, the deal between Antix Corp-Devas Pvt Ltd as on Feb 28, 2005 shall be annulled. This decision was taken today by the CCS," he said.
Defending the Prime Minister and his cabinet colleagues, Moily said, “The government and Dr Manomhan Singh are not at fault.”
Sounding confident of the legal options to go in government’s way, the Law Minister said, "The government has taken all possible litigations under consideration before taking the decision. We are very confident that this is the matter which, even if they go to the court, they will not succeed and we will be in a position to face any legal challenges."
When asked to give details about further action by the Centre, Moily said, “Let the Chaturvedi Committee report come and then further action will be taken.”
The decision to scrap the deal was taken during a Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) meeting at the 7, Race Course Road residence of the Prime Minister today. During the meeting, the CCS decided to go with the recommendations of the Department of Space to scrap the contract awarded to the Devas Multimedia.
The government is now likely to follow the due legal procedure for the annulment of the contract awarded to the firm.
The annulment comes in the wake of a raging controversy over the deal for handing over 70 Mhz of S-Band spectrum to the private firm for Rs 1,000 crore on which the CAG has already initiated action.
According to certain estimates, this deal may have resulted in a loss of Rs two lakh crore to the exchequer.
The stage for today’s decision taken by the CCS was set when Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, while interacting with the editors of the electronic media on Wednesday. indicated that the controversial deal between Antrix and Devas Multimedia had never been operationalised and the CCS will soon decide on terminating it.
He also rejected any suggestions that his office had held "backroom" talks with Devas after the Space Commission`s decision to scrap the deal and said any delay in implementing it was "procedural".
Earlier, Devas Multimedia had termed as "disturbing and inappropriate" the government`s "unilateral" decision to terminate the agreement "without due investigative process and without following the principles of natural justice".
Devas said it expected the government to fulfil all its obligations under the agreement and will take strong steps, including legal, to protect its rights.