Live Mint | 19 May 2021
Devas’ investors push for amicable settlement of row
by Gireesh Chandra Prasad
Three Mauritius-based entities embroiled in a lengthy legal battle with state-run Antrix Corp. Ltd, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), and the Indian government over a cancelled satellite leasing contract have offered to settle the dispute amicably.
Devas (Mauritius) Ltd, Telcom Devas Mauritius Ltd and Devas Employees Mauritius Pvt. Ltd are seeking to enforce an international arbitration award they had won in 2015. The $562.5 million award in damages is worth $1.3 billion, including interest as of November, according to the US District Court for the Western District of Washington that confirmed the award.
The investors have written to the Prime Minister’s Office and the ministries of law and justice, home and external affairs on 6 May, offering to settle the dispute mutually.
If the Indian government does not reciprocate, the investors intend to initiate fresh arbitration under India’s bilateral investment protection treaty with Mauritius, according to the letter, a copy of which has been reviewed by Mint.
The investors have also shown willingness to initiate more legal action if the Indian authorities take further steps that could worsen the ongoing dispute, according to the letter.
Bengaluru-based Devas Multimedia Pvt. Ltd, which is collectively owned by the three Mauritius-based investors, is fighting legal disputes with Antrix Corp. in the Indian courts, too.
In their letter, the three investors have said that they would expect the Indian government to respond to their communication within two weeks from the date of their letter, which expires on Thursday.
“The investors prefer to resolve this dispute amicably. To this end, the investors emphasize their willingness to work towards a mutually acceptable resolution and request a meeting with you or appropriate representatives of the government of India," the letter said.
They are also seeking confirmation of another international arbitration award of $110 million that they won last year, before the US District Court for Columbia and in other fora around the world, and intend to collect the award sum in full, the letter said.
There was no formal response to emailed queries sent on Tuesday to spokespersons of the Prime Minister’s Office, ministries of finance, as well as external affairs, and from the secretaries of the home ministry and the ministry of law and justice till press time. Antrix also did not respond to an emailed query sent on Tuesday.
The dispute arose because of the cancellation of the Devas-Antrix satellite capacity leasing deal in 2011 by the Indian firm citing “force majeure". Devas signed the deal to provide mobile multimedia and broadband wireless services in India.
Antrix has, in the meantime, moved the National Company Law Tribunal against Devas Multimedia, seeking to liquidate the company, according to Devas. Another related case is progressing in the Delhi high court over enforcement of the arbitration award confirmed by the US court.
The Indian government is separately fighting a legal battle with British oil major Cairn Energy Plc., which is trying to enforce an arbitration award of over $1.2 billion it won last year in an investment dispute.
India had in the past signed 73 bilateral investment protection deals with other countries to give comfort to overseas investors. These deals were terminated in 2015 to negotiate fresh deals, but that move has not seen much progress.