CBI names former Isro chief G Madhavan Nair in Antrix-Devas case

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has named former chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) G Madhavan Nair and other senior officials of the space agency in a chargesheet filed in the Antrix-Devas deal case.

The CBI had, in May, questioned Nair in connection with the probe into the alleged favour that helped private company Devas Multimedia Ltd to make Rs578-crore "wrongful" gain in its deal with Isro's commercial arm Antrix Corporation.

But that deal had cost Antrix Rs4,400 crore in penalties for non-execution of contract as the government realised the folly very late and cancelled the deal.

Devas has taken Antrix and the government to the International Court after its contract was cancelled by the cabinet committee on security in 2011.

Subsequently, Devas moved the iInternational Court of Arbitration in The Hague and got the award.

The Antrix-Devas deal had seen an early exit of Nair as chairman of Isro as he was the chairman of the governing council of Antrix when the deal was finalised.

The CBI had registered a case last year and carried out searches at the premises of Devas Limited as well as the then executive director of Antrix KR Sridhara Murthi in Bengaluru.

An FIR was lodged against Murthi, MG Chandrasekhar and R Vishwanathan of Forge Advisors, Devas Multi-media Private Limited and unnamed officials of Antrix, Isro and the Department of Space in a designated court in Bengaluru.

According to the CBI, the accused had entered into a criminal conspiracy while the government officials abused their position by favouring Devas by giving them rights for delivery of videos, multimedia and information services to mobile phones using S-Band through GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A satellites and terrestrial systems in India.

The accused officials "thus caused wrongful gain of Rs578 crore" to the private firm and its owners, CBI alleged.

CBI said that a deal between Antrix and Devas was fixed in principle in January 2005 for lease of S-Band transponders.

However, the then executive director of Antrix signed it on behalf of Antrix only six months later after ensuring that Chandrashekhar and Vishwanathan were majority stakeholders in Devas multi-media. They continued in this position till 2008-09.

The change in the board, where a US company represented by Chandrashekar and Vishwanathan had majority stakes, was never verified by Antrix as the agreement had been in violation of Shankara Committee, which had recommended execution of any such agreement with an Indian company only, it was contended.