Shareholders and investors of Devas Multimedia have filed a petition in a US court to attach the assets of Air India to enforce the $1.5-billion arbitration awards against India.

The appeal is to declare that Air India is legally indistinct from the Indian government, find the flag-carrier jointly and severally liable for any judgment against India, and allow execution, attachment, and other orders, requiring the airline to satisfy the liability owed to Devas’ shareholders. This is even as a petition is pending in the Court for the District of Columbia to confirm the arbitration award.

Scotland-based Cairn Energy filed a similar suit in the same court in May.

The Devas’ move comes days after India’s Supreme Court turned down a plea to restrain the liquidator from taking any step in relation to the arbitration pending before the Delhi High Court between Devas and the Union government-owned Antrix Corporation.

“India has refused to pay company the compensation for breaching investment treaties, in defiance of international arbitration rulings and contrary to India’s own treaty commitments. Hence, Devas has decided to pursue action against India in courts around the world,” said a statement from Devas shareholders. In 2020, the UNCITRAL tribunal in The Hague had ordered India to pay Mauritian shareholders of Devas damages of $160 million including interest.

Devas-Antrix case

In 2015, the International Chamber of Commerce had awarded $672 million to Devas after Antrix cancelled an agreement to build, launch, and operate two satellites and make available 70 MHz of S-band spectrum. Devas had challenged Antrix’s decision to cancel a 2005 contract for building the two satellites for Devas, citing irregularities in the deal.

Matthew D. McGill of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, lead counsel for a number of shareholders of Devas Multimedia Private Ltd, said, “Given the lengths to which India has gone to evade this award, we deem it urgent and essential to begin identifying and securing assets which may be used to facilitate payment. Devas shareholders have received no response to an offer to negotiate with the Indian government...”

Jay Newman, advisor to Devas shareholders, said, “...Today’s action is the first of many steps we will take to enforce our arbitration award, and ensure the Indian government pays what is rightfully owed to Devas shareholders.”