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Antrix: Big victory for Antrix as US court rejects lower court order on ICC $1.3bn compensation to Devas, nullifies attachment of Isro arm’s assets in America

In a big victory for Antrix in its long-drawn legal fight against Bengaluru-based Devas Multimedia and its foreign investors on American soil, the Ninth Circuit Court in California, which is by far the largest of the 13 US Courts of Appeals, has allowed the appeal of Isro’s commercial arm in totality and reversed the confirmation of the ICC award of $1.3 billion against Antrix earlier given by the district court at Seattle in a decade-old case of the failed satellite deal in 2005.

While expressly reversing the November 4, 2020 judgment passed by the Western District Court of Washington at Seattle against Antrix, the Ninth Circuit Court on Tuesday ruled that the district court “erred in exercising personal jurisdiction over Antrix” when it had claimed immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976. After being permitted by the Seattle district court, Devas had subsequently registered this order in the district court of eastern district of Virginia and had attached $87,457 dues owed to Antrix by Intelsat (US satellite company). As a consequence of this Ninth Circuit order, this attachment by Devas and all the orders passed against Antrix in the US have been nullified by the effect of the recent ruling.
Welcoming the US court verdict, Chinmoy Roy, senior legal officer of Antrix, told TOI, “Earlier, Hon’ble Supreme Court of India had declared Devas as fraudulent and Hon’ble Delhi High Court had set aside the ICC Arbitration Award against Antrix. Recently, a court in the Netherlands had also decided in favour of Antrix. With the latest verdict, the perpetrators of Devas have been brought to justice.”

The Ninth Circuit Court ruled, “Because we hold that the district court erred in exercising personal jurisdiction over Antrix, its judgment is reversed, and we need not address any of the other issues raised in the confirmation appeal. Because there is no judgment to register, the district court’s order permitting intervenors to register the judgment in the Eastern District of Virginia is also reversed, and we need not address any of the issues raised by the Registration Appeals.
The international arbitration tribunals had awarded Devas a compensation of $1.3 billion for the cancelled satellite deal in 2005 with Antrix and on the basis of those awards, the company had been seeking seizure of assets of Antrix and the government of India abroad by pursuing legal cases in Canada, France, the US and several other countries. Devas shareholders were earlier allowed by a Canada court in Quebec province to seize 50% of Air India funds, estimated to be around $23 million, lying with global airlines body IATA and they had also got a French court order for freezing an upscale apartment in Paris that housed India’s deputy chief of mission and was valued at 3.8 million euro.
In parallel, Antrix sought the winding up of Devas before the NCLT, alleging that Devas “was formed for a fraudulent and unlawful purpose and its affairs had been conducted in a fraudulent manner“. Even the Delhi high court, in its October 2022 order, had set aside a 2015 ICC award after concluding that it “suffers from patent illegalities and fraud”. The Supreme Court too had upheld the NCLT and the subsequent NLCAT orders for liquidation of the Benglauru-based company.

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