The Department of Space (DoS) has declined to provide key documents sought by former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman G Madhavan Nair to know the basis on which the government debarred him and three other retired space scientists in January from holding official posts.
"Taking shelter under a specific clause of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the DoS withheld vital information on the reports of the two committees that probed the Antrix-Devas deal and resulted in action against me and three other colleagues," a disappointed Nair said.
A week after the government blacklisted the four noted scientists, Nair filed an application under the RTI Act, 2005 with the DoS and ISRO, seeking details of the high level team that recommended action against him and three other technocrats.
"Though it is mandatory under the RTI Act to furnish documents I have asked for within 30 days of my application, I received a reply from DoS' RTI officer Tuesday repeating all that is already in the public domain but not the specific information, including documents and notings pertaining to the recommendation for action against us," Nair asserted.
The three other blacklisted scientists are former scientific secretary A Bhaskarnarayana, ISRO's former satellite centre director KN Shankara and former Antrix Corporation executive director KR Sridharamurthi.
Expressing inability to share the specific information, the official wrote to Nair that as per the rule 8(1)(H) of the RTI Act, he could not furnish the relevant documents as they pertain to investigation and prosecution of the offenders.
"It is unfortunate that I have been denied my legitimate right to know what offence I had committed for such an action. Instead of responding to my specific queries on the probe reports and reasons for annulling the Devas contract, I have been given the terms of reference under which the two committees investigated the deal and that their reports were on the official websites for reference," Nair pointed out.
Without naming the DoS secretary (K. Radhakrishnan), who is also chairman of the state-run ISRO and secretary of the Space Commission, Nair said under the guise of a particular clause and section, the department was making mockery of the RTI Act as its response showed someone was hiding facts, which would otherwise expose him.
"The DoS has refused to divulge information on the issues pertaining to the Devas agreement, approval cycles and correspondence that took place among the concerned. It's an act of cowardice on the part of the department to suppress facts and deny justice to a former official who also held the same post and worked in the organisation for over four decades," Nair observed.
Asked on his next move to seek justice, Nair said he would consult legal experts before approaching the chief information commissioner for evidence, including specific documents, file notings and names of those who took arbitrary decisions to cancel the Devas deal and accuse them of wrong doing.
"Though I have better things to do, I will spare time to take the matter to logical conclusion as we have been held guilty without being heard to defend or explain our role in the spectrum deal," Nair added.
The 68-year rocket scientist is away at Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala till Sunday and plans to take up the legal battle on return to the city on Monday.