Bangalore: Seeking to soothe ruffled feathers in the wake of ISRO row, Government on Friday described the scientific community as a national asset that cannot be taken lightly, even as it appeared to soften its stand against the blacklisted four ex-functionaries of the space department.

Responding to queries from reporters, Union Corporate Affairs Minister M Veerappa Moily referred to the statement of B K Chaturvedi, who along with Roddam Narasimha probed the Antrix-Devas deal, in a section of the press that there was "no criminality, no misappropriation in that deal".

Moily, a former Union Law Minister, said, "Maybe, the (four) scientists would not have followed certain procedures and rules and that's the fault attributed to them".

Soon after four former ISRO scientists, including its ex-Chairman G Madhavan Nair, were barred from government jobs based on two official committee reports on the deal, Minister of State in PMO V Narayanasamy had stoutly defended the decision, saying it's a message to scientists that no wrongdoing by them would tolerated, a statement that drew sharp reactions from scientists.

Moily admitted on Friday "..at the same time, I do agree that we will have to treat the scientific community as a national asset and that national asset cannot be taken lightly".

He also said there is no proposal before his Ministry to probe the operations of Devas, whose deal with Antrix was scrapped. "No reference has come to the Ministry yet".

Moily said when he was Union Law Minister, opinion was given that there are enough grounds to cancel the Antrix-Devas contract.

(Agencies)