SC stays execution of $1.2 billion damage order against ISRO's Antrix by US court
New Delhi, November 4, 2020
The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the execution of an award passed by a US court asking Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of ISRO, to pay compensation of US$ 1.2 billion to Devas Multimedia, a Bengaluru-based startup, for cancelling a 2005 satellite deal.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde and comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and Indu Malhotra stayed the execution of the international award, which was passed last week by the US court. The bench said it is keeping the US order in abeyance and transferred the proceedings from the Bengaluru court to the Delhi High Court.
The US District Court, Western District of Washington, ordered Antrix to compensate Devas to the extent of $562.5 million coupled with the interest -- the total damages coming to about $1.2 billion.
Devas Multimedia had filed a case against Antrix for damages it suffered owing to the cancellation of the agreement to use two satellites (GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A) for high-speed beaming of video content on mobile devices on the S-band spectrum in February 2011.
The two companies had entered into an agreement in 2005. Devas was promoted by a few former employees of ISRO. The then UPA government cancelled the controversial contract in February 2011, invoking sovereignty, and decided to use the advanced satellites (GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A) for the country's strategic use.
After 2011, Devas moved various legal avenues in India, including the Supreme Court, which directed for a tribunal.
Devas Multimedia, in the lawsuit filed in the US District Court, in September 2018, had said three separate international tribunals and nine different arbitrators had found the termination of the Devas-Antrix agreement to have been wrong. Devas had said that one of the tribunals in its findings had noted it to be a clear breach of simple good faith by India.
In November 2018, Antrix, had sought the dismissal of the lawsuit citing jurisdictional issues. However, the court asserted its jurisdiction on the issue, but stayed the matter for one year. The court also asked both to file a joint status report by April 15, 2020. Devas had submitted before the US court that it has jurisdiction, as Antrix engages in business in this district and also across the US.
Both Devas and Antrix, on July 16, 2020, filed the instant motion, a Joint Status Report in which they disputed whether the court should lift or extend the stay, and if the latter, whether Antrix would be required to post security.