Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday launched a no-holds-barred attack on the erstwhile UPA government over the Antix Devas issue and the Supreme Court order in the case. Calling the agreement a “fraud against India”, Sitharaman said that it took six years to the UPA government to cancel the deal between Antrix and Devas Multimedia.
“Even when they (UPA government) cancelled, it showed glimpses that the agreement was completely wrong against national security and fraud against the country,” Sitharaman said while addressing a press conference.
Lauding the Supreme Court order in the case in which it upheld the winding up of Devas Multimedia, Sitharaman said: “After nearly 10-11 years of struggle, we had SC come out with a comprehensive order showing how congress misuses resources of the people of India for pittance.”
“It was a fraud from the first place. I’m glad the Supreme Court has called it out. Now we shall take this order and defend the government of India’s position and make sure justice is got. It is now the Congress’s turn to explain. They should have no right to speak about crony capitalism,” she added.
The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the winding up of Devas Multimedia saying,” it is a case of fraud of a huge magnitude which cannot be brushed under the carpet, as a private lis”. A bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and V Ramasubramanian dismissed the appeal filed by Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd and said when two forums namely NCLT and NCLAT have recorded concurrent findings on facts, it is not open to this Court to reappreciate evidence.
The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) had upheld the earlier order of the Bengaluru bench of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), which had on May 25, 2021, directed the winding up of Devas Multimedia and appointed a provisional liquidator for the purpose.
The NCLT’s direction came over a petition filed by Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The NCLT had said Devas Multimedia was incorporated with a fraudulent motive to collude and connive with the then officials of Antrix Corporation to get bandwidth from it by entering into an agreement in 2005, which was subsequently cancelled by the government.
This order was challenged by Devas Multimedia and its shareholder Devas Employees Mauritius Private Ltd before the Chennai bench of NCLAT, which dismissed the petition.
According to Devas, what this agreement intended to achieve was first-of-its-kind and tremendous innovation. As a result, Devas introduced and utilised technologies like never before and was a huge revenue generator for Antrix. Devas Multimedia was incorporated on December 17, 2004.
According to the winding-up petition filed by the commercial arm of ISRO before NCLT, the then officials of Antrix Corporation including its then chairman had executed a contract dated January 28, 2005. This was terminated on February 25, 2011, as it was obtained fraudulently in connivance of the then officials and in accordance with the Agreement, which provides for termination on the ground of force majeure (unforeseeable circumstances).
It was stated in the said letter that the Government of India had taken a policy decision not to provide orbital slots in S-Band for commercial activities. Investigating agencies CBI and Enforcement Directorate has unearthed fraud in executing the agreement, Antrix had said.
The CBI had later filed a charge sheet and ED had initiated PMLA proceedings. The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) had also initiated an investigation into the affairs of Devas Multimedia but a stay was granted by the Delhi High Court.