Investigations must be carried out against former top officials at Department of Space who suppressed crucial information related to the Devas-Antrix deal which led the Cabinet in 2011 to cancel the agreement citing force majeure instead of fraud, according to a key official who was entrusted with the investigation of transaction.
Gopalan Balachandhran, who had joined Department of Space (DoS) in April 2009 as Financial Advisor in the rank of Additional Secretary and was asked to review a report submitted by one-man committee led by B.N. Suresh, was among those who had recommended to scrap the agreement way back in December 2010.
Now, more than 11 years after BusinessLine first highlighted the concerns around the deal between Antrix Multimedia and ISRO’s commercial arm Antrix, Balachandhran broke his silence on the controversy explaining how his recommendation to scrap the agreement was suppressed by top officials.
“After I started looking into the papers related to the agreement ( between Antrix and Devas), I found that in many aspects, the actions of officials who played a role to give clearance for the Antrix-Devas deal were suspect,” he told BusinessLine in an exclusive interview.
“In my review of Suresh Committee’s Report, I had given documentary evidences that in order to conclude the agreement, financial due-diligence was not done properly. The legal opinion given was a sham and was completely wrong,” he said.
According to Balachandhran, while the agreement was a mischievous handiwork of greedy elements aided by pliable officials, the real fiasco was the way the Cabinet was made to terminate the agreement on a weak ground of application of force majeure, that is Antrix informing Devas that the Government which had agreed in 2005 to make available spectrum, suddenly discovered in 2010 that they cannot part away with their spectrum anymore.
“There was a strong ground to terminate the agreement on the unassailable grounds of the fraudulence of Devas. This was intimated to the then Secretary, DoS, thrice by me. Yet, the agreement was cancelled on weak grounds causing the national exchequer a few hundred crores of rupees in fighting arbitrations abroad and a fraudulent customer like Devas, winning two arbitrations and coursing smoothly in a third arbitration,” he said.
India’s global image
This assumes significance in the light of the Supreme Court which recently upheld the aspect of fraud committed by Devas. If Balachandhran’s recommendations were acted upon, perhaps India would have won the arbitration in the international courts, too. Balachandhran said that vigilance and criminal investigations is required to be carried out to understand the cause of such culpability by the then top officials at DoS.
“I feel vindicated to a great extent ( by the SC judgement). My struggle since 2010 and wait for 12 years has been mostly rewarded. The most important points put forward by Antrix before NCLAT in their prayer for liquidating Devas are the ones I had informed Secretary, Dept of Space, as early as in December, 2010 and January, 2011” he said.
Balachandhran said Devas will now try to create an impression abroad that it is difficult for foreign investors to do business in India but it is important for India to successfully challenge and finish off such false propaganda. “ It is clear, both Antrix and CBI have found that Devas has succeeded in suppressing the information that they do not have IPR from reaching the Cabinet. Unless we state this fact, we will not be able to conclusively prove in international courts of Devas’ multiple crimes, “ he said.