In its chargesheet filed in a Delhi court on the deal between ISRO marketing arm Antrix Corporation and Bengaluru-based Devas Multimedia, the CBI is learnt to have claimed that Antrix knew Devas did not own the technology it wanted to deploy but still went ahead, bringing financial benefits to Devas.
The CBI is not the first to raise questions over technology ownership of Devas. At least two people from within the space establishment had informed the then ISRO leadership in 2010 that Devas was in violation of the contract because the technology it claimed as its own belonged to someone else. This was reported by The Indian Express last October.
In the deal, Devas said it had the “ownership and right” to use the intellectual property used in design of digital multimedia receivers and commercial information devices.
Much before the deal was cancelled in 2011, S V Kibe, an ISRO communication scientist, said the intellectual property rights for DVB-SH (digital video broadcasting-satellite services to handhelds) technology was with ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) and not Devas.
“It can be safely stated that the DVB-SH technology is not a confidential and proprietary technology held by Devas Multimedia. It is not clear whether Devas Multimedia obtained the rights to use this technology in India from ETSI,” he said in a note to G Balachandran, then additional secretary in ISRO. Balachandran had told The Indian Express that he had flagged this issue “four times” in his communication with then ISRO chief K Radhakrishnan.
There is no record of the ISRO leadership having acted on the information. If the contract was cancelled on this ground, ISRO or the government would not have been liable to pay any damages, as they have now been ordered to by two separate arbitration panels. One of them slapped a Rs 4,400-crore fine on Antrix in September last year, while another last month found the Indian government in violation of its Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with Mauritius, and thereby liable to pay damages to the Mauritius-based investor of Devas. The amount of damages to be paid in the second case is still to be decided.
The CBI chargesheet could put fresh question marks on the decision-making process leading to the cancellation of the agreement.
Inputs by Deeptiman Tiwary