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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Trial after verdict

Law ministry says ‘let’s listen to the ISRO scientists’ after government has tarred them

Written by The Indian Express | Published: March 3, 2012 12:46:19 am

Law ministry says ‘let’s listen to the ISRO scientists’ after government has tarred them

In a half-hearted concession of the government’s error in the Antrix-Devas investigation,the four ISRO scientists so summarily discredited may now be given a chance to speak for themselves. The law ministry has suggested that the four be given the “post-decisional opportunity” to express their position,after the Department of Space took the harsh call to blacklist them from any government employment. The law ministry also said the scientists should have been told what these alleged infractions were — though it also says the decision to block them from government jobs was “ not punitive” and that scientists do not have the “right to claim re-employment”.

Lashed by corruption scandals last year,the government has been hypersensitive to any suggestion of impropriety. Former ISRO chief G. Madhavan Nair and three of his colleagues bore the brunt of that,after suspected irregularities in a now-cancelled deal for S-band spectrum between its commercial arm Antrix and multimedia company Devas,without competitive bidding. Two panels that investigated the matter have clashing versions — while the B.K. Chaturvedi committee report found nothing wrong in the price-setting method,the Pratyush Sinha-led team found “collusive behaviour” to favour Devas. The rationale of the Sinha report hasn’t been made public,though its conclusions have. Neither report finds any proof these scientists were set to benefit from the deal. Yet,the government acted with finality,destroying reputations and starting a war of words between the former ISRO chief and the current one. By taking this drastic step and denying the scientists a chance to explain,it made a high-achieving scientific institution look like an ego-driven mess. Another Space Commission member,Roddam Narasimha (who was part of the Chaturvedi panel),resigned.

The scientists themselves question the point of speaking after they have been punished. These actions have impacted institutional morale as much as hurt these individuals. In the interest of justice,the government should begin from scratch and clearly establish wrongdoing,if any — or retract the ban. It should not hide behind the law ministry’s muddled advice.

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