Antrix-Devas deal cancelled

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has decided to cancel the controversial Antrix-Devas deal, putting an end to the latest scam before it blows out in full. Law minister Veerappa Moily announced the cabinet decision in New Delhi today.

The CCS meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh decided to annul the contract entered into by Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), with private-run Devas Multimedia, under which ISRO was to lease out 90 per cent transponders on two of its satellites - GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A.

"Taking note of the fact that government policies with regard to allocation of spectrum have undergone a change in the last few years and there has been an increased demand for allocation of spectrum for national needs, including for the needs of defence, para-military forces, railways and other public utility services as well as for societal needs, and having regard to the needs of the country's strategic requirements, the government will not be able to provide orbit slot in S-band to Antrix for commercial activities, including for those which are the subject matter of existing contractual obligations for S-band," the CCS said in its statement.

In the light of the policy of not providing orbit slot in S-band to Antrix for commercial activities, the "Agreement for the lease of space segment capacity on ISRO/Antrix S-Band spacecraft by Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd" entered into between Antrix Corporation and Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd on 28th January 2005 shall be annulled forthwith," it said.

The contract, signed in January 2005, obligated ISRO to lease transponder capacity from the two satellites for a mere $300 million (around Rs1,350 crore) to Devas Multimedia over a 12-year period.

The leasing of precious spectrum of up to 70 MHz, at throwaway prices, has triggered an uproar with the BJP-led opposition attacking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who is directly in charge of the Department of Space.