Devas-antrix case: Supreme Court stay on US court order of $1.2 billion payoff

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the execution of an arbitral award that required the Indian Space Research Organisation’s commercial arm, Antrix Corporation, to pay compensation of about $1.2 billion to a Bengaluru-based startup, Devas Multimedia Private Limited, over cancelling of a 2005 agreement

A federal court in Washington had on October 27 ordered execution of the award dated September 14, 2015 in favour of Devas Multimedia and asked the Indian government entity to deposit the compensation with 18% annual interest that worked out to $1.2 billion.

Under the deal signed in January 2005, Antrix had agreed to build, launch and operate two satellites and to provide 70 MHz of S-band spectrum to Devas by which the private company would offer hybrid satellite and terrestrial communication services throughout India. Antrix terminated the deal in February 2011. The dispute between Antrix and Devas has been pending consideration before the SC since 2018. Attorney general KK Venugopal, appearing for Antrix Corporation, and solicitor general Tushar Mehta, for the Centre, moved separate applications in the top court to keep the award in abeyance.

Venugopal said: “This stay is still in operation and it ties my hands. Till the matter is settled between the parties on whether the proceeding under Section 34 of Arbitration Act will lie in Delhi or Bengaluru, Devas has invoked the jurisdiction of the US court to enforce the award. We have to obtain a stay against the said award.”

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde said: “It is highly iniquitous to execute the award without objections under Section 34 to the award are dealt with.”

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