Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has said that "no competitive bidding" was adopted for leasing S-band spectrum to Devas Multimedia at a throw away price during a controversial satellite deal by the organisation's commercial arm Antrix Corporation.
The space agency denied to disclose details of the deal signed between Antrix Corporation Limited and Devas Multimedia in January 2005 citing "commercial confidence".
"The multimedia services through satellite using S-band was an evolving technology, being introduced for the first time in the country. Consistent with the practise in vogue, no competitive bidding was adopted for leasing of transponders," Isro said in reply to an RTI query filed by PTI.
According to officials, in satellite communications technology, giving transponder on lease is related to allocation of spectrum as they are designed to work at a particular frequency band. If the transponders are allotted in the S-Band, it follows that spectrum would also be given.
"With regards to copies of deal signed between Antrix and Devas, the same is exempted from disclosure under Section 8 (1) (d) of the RTI Act due to commercial confidence," it said.
The section bars disclosing information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information.
Estimates Committee, headed by Lok Sabha MP Francisco Sardinha, is examining the controversial Antrix-Devas deal on scarce S-band space segment, which has since been annulled by the government.
Under the deal, Antrix was to provide crucial S-Band wavelength, which is primarily kept for strategic interests of the country, to Devas for running its digital multimedia service by leasing 90% transponders on two satellites -- GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A. The company had to pay Antrix a total of $ 300 million over a period of 12 years.
Antrix had signed the contract in January 2005 and got sanction of the Space Commission and the Union cabinet for the two satellites at the cost of nearly Rs 400 crore without informing them that bulk capacity would be leased to Devas.
In December 2009, Isro ordered a review of the deal and subsequently Space Commission recommended its annulment on July 2, 2010.
"The Antrix Corporation Ltd and Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd, agreement has been annulled. Antrix Corporation Ltd, has sent the Agreement Termination Notice to Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd on February 25, 2011," the RTI reply said.
"There is no loss of revenue to the exchequer as no spectrum has been given either to Antrix or to Devas," it said when asked whether there was any loss to government in the deal.