12:15 pm - Tuesday November 3, 2015

Antrix told to pay Devas $672 million

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The International Court of Arbitration upheld the Deutsche Telekom-funded Devas’s argument that the cancellation of the deal six years after an agreement in this regard was arbitrary

An international tribunal has asked Antrix, a wholly-owned government entity under the Department of Space, to pay $672 million (around Rs 4,300 crore) to Devas Multimedia as damages for cancelling a satellite-leasing contract.

The International Court of Arbitration (ICA) upheld the Deutsche Telekom-funded Devas’s argument that cancellation of the deal six years after an agreement in this regard was arbitrary. In 2011, India had cancelled the deal with Devas, saying the S-band spectrum allocated to the GSAT-6 satellite, which was to be leased to the firm, would be used for strategic purposes, not commercial ones.

Subsequently, Devas moved the ICA, claiming damages of $1.6 billion.

In a statement, Devas said, “Devas is hopeful Antrix will now live up to its legal obligations and pay the award, so that this dispute that arose during the prior government can be brought to a swift close.”

Antrix Chairman V S Hegde wasn’t immediately available for comment. An Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) spokesperson said he wasn’t aware of the development. Former Isro chairman K Radhakrishnan declined to comment.

In 2005, Antrix had signed an agreement with Devas to enable it to secure access to technology to beam high-speed video content on mobile devices on the S-band platform. The deal came under scrutiny around the time a telecom spectrum auction scandal broke out under the United Progressive Alliance government. On the back foot and pushed by a bitter personal battle between then Isro chairman K Radhakrishnan and its former head, Madhavan Nair, the Cabinet Committee on Security cancelled the deal in February 2011.

An inquiry by senior aerospace scientist Roddam Narasimha found procedural lapses in the deal.

In 2012, the government removed four officials, including Madhavan Nair and former director of Antrix, K R Sridhara Murthi, from government posts. In March this year, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a case of allegedly cheating against Murthi and two unnamed US officials of Devas for cheating the government exchequer of Rs 578 crore. CBI also carried out raids on Murthi’s premises and the Devas office here.

“Devas is grateful that the ICC (International Criminal Court) tribunal unanimously ruled in our favour. With the ICC award having been issued, we hope we can now move forward to conclude this dispute,” said Larry Babbio, chairman of Devas Multimedia.

In the statement, Ram Viswanathan, president and chief executive of the company, said, “Devas is pleased with the award issued unanimously by the ICC tribunal. We hope the dispute, which arose more than four years ago during the previous administration, can now be finally closed.”

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