The chargesheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against former ISRO chief Madhavan Nair and others in a court in Delhi on Thursday needs to be welcomed, as it constitutes one definitive step. Ever since an agreement was signed between Antrix, ISRO’s subsidiary, and Devas in 2005, it has been mired in controversy. There is little in the public domain about why the UPA government found it necessary to cancel the deal. True, Nair has been blaming his successor K Radhakrishnan for implicating him in the case. Now, thanks to the chargesheet, everybody knows what may have happened when Antrix and Devas joined hands and how Devas owners gained `578 crore.
The CBI has made the claim about Devas’ gain with the proviso that the amount is likely to change once it completes its probe. In other words, though the case is a decade old, the chargesheet is not the last word. Additional chargesheets are a possibility which means that the CBI’s findings are just provisional. It gives the parties concerned an opportunity to prove their innocence. If no chargesheet was filed, the needle of suspicion would have pointed at Nair and others without any basis. To sum up the case, Devas did not have the competence to enter into such a deal with Antrix as it was a foreign entity and was not even technically qualified to provide the services it promised.
That the CBI case has come in the wake of a favourable verdict the management of Devas has recently won from an international tribunal cannot be overlooked. The tribunal found that the cancellation of the agreement by the government was arbitrary and ordered a hefty compensation. In 2015, the company had won another favourable decision from an International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) tribunal. It awarded a compensation of $672 million. Devas sees the CBI case as a retributive action. It is now up to the designated court to expedite the hearing so that the truth is upheld.