India lost a big case at the International Tribunal in The Hague against Devas Multimedia and may have to pay close to $1 billion. Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)’s commercial wing, Antrix Corporation Ltd. cancelled a major contract with Devas, made in 2005 involving satellites. The case was filed by Devas in 2015 as in 2011, the UPA government cancelled its contract with Antrix. The deal was aimed to help Devas provide internet in remote locations in the country.
Antrix however did not involve or inform the then UPA government, neither was any kind of auctions held. Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in May, earlier this year had questioned ISRO Chairman G Madhavan Nair. Here are a few keypoints in relation to the case:
1. The Permanent Court of Arbitration tribunal decision states that by denying the commercial use of related spectrum, the government’s actions have expropriated shareholders’ investments and therefore liable to pay a fine, compensating the losses.
2. This the 2nd time such a ruling in an arbitration case has come out in the controversy. Earlier in 2015, an International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) tribunal in 2015 found the cancellation of contract as ‘unlawful’ and awarded Devas damages worth Rs 4400 crore.
3. A project for hybrid satellite-terrestrial infrastructure with an aim to get broadband wireless access using satellites to India, especially the remote areas.
4. Two ISRO satellites were to be manufactured by Antrix and was supposed to lease out 70 MHz of S-band spectrum for 12 years, and that would have earned ISRO $ 300 million
5. Antrix which is ISRO’s marketing arm was set up in the year 1992 as a body to commercialise space products, and also a channel for transfer of technology.
6. Devas Multimedia is an organisation set up by former scientists from ISRO and has a lot of foriegn investers backing them. It is headquartered in Bangalore.