In a relief for Antrix, the commercial arm of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the Delhi High Court has set aside an arbitral order that directed Antrix to pay over $560 million to Devas Multimedia.
The arbitral award was passed by the Internation Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in 2015 and directed Antrix to pay the sum as damages for allegedly illegally terminating its contract with Devas Multimedia. This order was upheld by the courts in the US.
Antrix, however, had moved the Delhi High Court seeking setting aside of the award while Devas pushed for the award's enforcement.
Finding patent illegality in the order passed in favour of Devas and for the same being against India's public policy, a single-judge bench of the high court today set aside the order.
The high court noted that in January this year, the Supreme Court had held that the deal between Antrix and Devas had its origin in fraud perpetrated by the latter and as such, all the products of the said deal would be illegal. The top court had upheld an order of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) for winding up of Devas Multimedia based on this reasoning.
The Delhi High Court, relying on the apex court's January 2022 ruling also noted that allowing investors of Devas to reap the beenfits of a fraudulent would be antithetical to the rule of law. The arbitral award goes against the economic policy of India along with being in contravention of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board rules and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
Antrix and Devas had entered into an agreement that stipulated Antrix to build, operate, and launch two satellites with Devas leasing spectrum capacity on those satellites to provide multimedia services in India. Devas was a company based in Bengaluru with investors from Mauritius and the US.