After being summarily blacklisted from government jobs, former Isro chief G Madhavan Nair, former Isro scientific secretary A Bhaskaranarayana, former Antrix managing director KR Sridhara Murthi and former director of Isro?s satellite centre KN Shankara will now get a ?post-decisional opportunity? to present their side of the Antrix-Devas story. Note that the government hasn?t disclosed the secret details leading up to the scientists? blacklisting to the public, and the scientists were left to learn their punishment through the media rather than the government itself. It was only when the scientific community collectively raised an outcry against the contemptuous treatment meted out to men who had for decades been celebrated for their stellar service to India?s space mission that the Centre now sought legal opinion from its top law officer, Attorney General GE Vahanvati. His advice has now made the law ministry ask the Department of Space to allow a hearing to the four scientists?with the understanding that the exact nature of the charges against them should have been communicated to them before the order to blacklist was issued! It should never have taken an unwholesome uproar for this basic understanding to dawn upon the government.
The controversy has also re-ignited an important debate over the commercial character of satellite versus terrestrial spectrum. While the exact processes leading up to the blacklisting have been shrouded in secrecy, what has become very visible is that there is significant discordance between the BK Chaturvedi and Pratyush Sinha reports on the Antrix-Devas deal. The former has said that there was no loss to the exchequer. One of its authors, Roddam Narasimha, has resigned from the Space Commission to protest the summary blacklisting of his peers, which he said ?could demoralise the Isro scientific community, and adversely affect its ability to take the kind of technological initiatives?not always without risk?that are the hallmark of an innovative organisation?.