Monetary compensation is the last thing that satellite communications firm Devas International is seeking by dragging government-owned Antrix Corporation to an international court after the client company suffered in a controversial spectrum-linked satellite launch deal. But this is the only way it can get the government to talk to it, company officials say.
“Since arbitrarily cancelling the contract in February, the government has refused to speak to us or even reply to communications sent by us,” said an official, adding, “This was the only way to force them to come to the table.’
Contacted by HT, a senior government official, who asked not to be identified, said: "The cancellation of the contract was a measure in abundant caution. The other party has moved judicial forum and the last word on it has not been said.”
Devas filed a demand for arbitration in the international court of arbitration in Paris on June 29 seeking a directive to the government to keep alive its contract with this Bangalore-based company, raised by Ramchandran Viswanathan.
It had signed an agreement with Anrtix Corporation, renting transmission slots on GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A satellites being built for launch, for $ 340 million paid over 12 years. The satellites were to cost the government $ 170 million.
The first satellite was to go up in December 2008, but it was gradually pushed to October 2010. And then at the height of the furore over the 2G spectrum scam involving then telecom minister A Raja, the Devas deal came under scrutiny.In February, Devas was told the deal was being cancelled, as the government had changed its policy – now prohibiting commercial use of these satellites. A force-majeure clause in the agreement allowing for such changes was used as cover.
“How could the same government that had cleared the agreement, and reported progress on it suddenly disown the process and change the policy?” said a company official.
After an announcement cancelling the deal at a news conference on February 8, Devas wrote twice to Antrix seeking clarifications.
Antrix informed Devas of the cancellation on February 25. “The government has taken a policy decision not to provide Orbital Slot in S-Band to our company for commercial activities including those which are the subject matter of existing agreements,” wrote Antrix.
There were allegations of a scam. A probe by former cabinet secretary BK Chaturvedi gave its report a month ago. A second probe is being conducted by former Central Vigilance Commissioner Pratyush Sinha. Devas was not contacted by the first panel, and it has yet to hear from the second too.
“We don’t want monetary compensation now. We want the project up and running,” the official said. For now, Devas just wants the government to talk.