In a setback to Indian space agency ISROs marketing arm,Antrix Corporation,the Supreme Court on Friday held that Devas was entitled to initiate arbitration proceeding in the International Court of Arbitration to seek remedies against the Antrixs decision to annul S-band spectrum deal.
Dismissing a petition by Antrix,a three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir said that Antrix could not have invoked the arbitration agreement yet again and seek proceedings under a different mechanism after Devas had embarked upon the arbitration under the rules and procedures of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).
Once the arbitration agreement had been invoked by Devas and a nominee arbitrator had also been appointed,the agreement could not have been invoked for a second time by Antrix,which was fully aware of the appointment made by Devas. It would lead to an anomalous state of affairs if the appointment of an arbitrator once made,could be questioned in a subsequent proceeding initiated by the other party also for the appointment of an arbitrator, held the Bench.
Invoking security reasons,the government had in 2011 scrapped the $300-million agreement to allot 70 MHz of scarce S-band spectrum (radio waves) to Devas through the transponders of ISROs yet-to-be launched GSAT-6 and GSAT-61 communication satellites.
The controversy over the deal had also witnessed unprecedented disciplinary actions against four of the biggest names in the space community,including former chairman of the ISRO G Madhavan Nair,after they were barred from occupying any government position for their alleged role in the deal.
Following the termination of the deal,Devas had in June 2011 sent a request for arbitration to the ICC International Court and sought constitution of an Arbitral Tribunal.
It also appointed its nominee and requested Antrix to do the same.
Antrix,however,invoked the arbitration agreement in accordance with United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) and alleged Devas had invoked International Chamber of Commerce Rules unilaterally,without letting it exercise its choice.
It also moved the court under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act,requesting for appointment of an Arbitral Tribunal,besides directing Devas to choose its nominee under United Nations Commission on International Trade Law.The Bench,however,rejected the plea,noting that even under the Act,the Chief Justice cannot replace one arbitrator already appointed in exercise of the agreement.