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Devas hits back at Indian government

February 7, 2022

By Chris Forrester

The long-running suite of legal problems that surround the 2005 failed deal between India’s Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and its Antrix commercial arm show no sign of abating.

Devas Multimedia, which signed a capacity deal with ISRO’s Antrix division, and despite having allegations of fraud set against Devas and certain ISRO employees, has now issued a fresh notice of arbitration against the India government for using what it describes as “unlawful and abusive” measures against Devas. Devas is fighting for already awarded compensation of $1.2 billion in the dispute.

Devas Multimedia is using the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) and the action, dated February 2nd has been issued by a legal firm in the US on behalf of three investors in Devas Multimedia – CC/Devas Mauritius, Telcom Devas Mauritius and Devas Employees Mauritius Private Limited.

“While the initial arbitration arose from India’s wrongful conduct in relation to its cancellation of the Devas-Antrix Agreement, this current dispute arises from India’s unlawful and abusive measures against Devas to preclude it from collecting on the ICC Award. Accordingly, claimants’ requests for relief relate to the wrongful conduct that was not the subject of the quantum award (which India, in any event, has not yet paid),” says the notice issued by the three Devas investors to the Indian government.

“India has failed to provide full protection and security (FPS) to the claimants and their investments,” says the action adding that “India’s harassment of Devas and its officers, followed by Devas’ takeover with the intent to prevent enforcement of the ICC Award, breaches India’s FPS obligations.”

“By singling Devas out for liquidation, India has accorded treatment of Claimants’ investments that is less favourable than that given to its domestic investors and investors of third-party states holding arbitral awards against India or its state agencies,” states the Devas notice.

The investors also cite a letter of May 6th 2021 written to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling for an amicable settlement of the dispute. “Claimants set out India’s unlawful actions and invited India to settle the dispute amicably. On 16 August 2021, India rejected claimants’ offer to engage in settlement discussions,” states lawyers for Devas (law firm Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher LLP). The notice says that the Prime Minister’s Office was told by advisers that “unless a ‘clear case of malafide’ can be made out against Devas, the Antrix case for annulment of (the ICC) arbitration award will be weak.”

After the cancellation, the various foreign investors in Devas Multimedia, including Deutsche Telekom, three Mauritius investors, and Devas Multimedia itself, approached various international tribunals seeking compensation for the failed deal and have earned some cash by hitting Indian investments based in the US and Canada.

The initial International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) compensation award to Devas Multimedia was confirmed by the US federal court for the western district of Washington on October 27th 2020. Antrix Corporation is itself appealing to a US appeals court against this order and the Supreme Court of India has asked for the ICC tribunal award to be kept in abeyance through a November 4th 2020 order.

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