March 24, 2023

Explained: Nuts and bolts of the controversial Antrix-Devas case – Times of India

NEW DELHI: It all started with signing of a satellite deal in 2005 between Isro’s commercial arm Antrix and Bengaluru-based startup Devas Multimedia.
The controversial deal was cancelled later and the decade-old-long legal battle between Antrix and Devas ended in the Supreme Court on Monday (January 1, 2022), which ordered the winding up of the startup.
Here’s a timeline on the case:
Jan 2005: An agreement between Antrix Corporation and Devas was signed under which Antrix agreed to build, launch and operate two satellites and lease out 90% of satellite transponder capacity to the Bengaluru-based company, which had planned to use it to offer hybrid satellite and terrestrial communication services throughout India.
Bundled into the deal was 70 MHz of S-band spectrum (usually restricted for use by security forces and government telecom entities like MTNL and BSNL), which was priced at Rs 1,000 crore.
A media expose claimed that the deal could have caused loss of over Rs 2 lakh crore to the national exchequer.
Feb 2011: Manmohan Singh-led UPA government cancelled the deal by giving “security reasons” after allegations of contract being ‘quid pro quo’ or a sweetheart deal were found. G Madhavan Nair was the then Isro chairman.
Aug 2016: Former Isro chief G Madhavan Nair and other senior officials were chargesheeted by the CBI as they were accused of facilitating “wrongful” gain of Rs 578 crore to Devas.
Sept 2017: International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) awarded Devas a compensation worth $1.3 billion on the appeal of foreign investors in Devas.
June 2019: United Nations Commission On International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) tribunal found India in breach of Germany bilateral investment treaty in an arbitration initiated by Devas’ foreign shareholder Deutsche Telekom AG.
Jan 2020: Three Mauritius-based entities CC/Devas (Mauritius) Ltd, Devas Employees Mauritius Pvt Ltd, and Telcom Devas Mauritius Ld, who held a 37.5% stake in Devas, sought confirmation of UNCITRAL order in the US Columbia district court.
Oct 2020: US federal court for the Western District of Washington confirmed ICC’s award directing Antrix to pay $1.2 billion to Devas.
Nov 2020: The Supreme Court in India stayed US court order and directed Delhi high court to hear arguments against enforcement of the award.
Jan 2021: Ministry of corporate affairs directed Antrix to initiate a winding up petition against Devas under Companies Act.
NLCT admitted Antrix petition against Devas and appointed provisional liquidator.
Sept 2021: NCLAT upheld NCLT order to wind up Devas Multimedia.
Nov-Dec 2021: In two separate orders, a Canadian court in Quebec authorised the seizure of assets belonging to the Airport Authority of India (AAI) and Air India (AI) held with global airlines body IATA after Devas investors filed a case against government of India for breach of bilateral treaty by cancelling deal.
Jan 8, 2022: Canada court quashed own order and lifted stay on freezing of AAI assets lying with IATA. In second order, court amended own ruling and allowed only 50% of AI assets lying with IATA to be taken over by Devas investors.
Jan 17, 2022: The Supreme Court in India upheld NCLAT verdict on winding up Devas by dismissing company’s appeal against tribunal and called the deal “infected with poison of fraud”.

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