Antrix-Devas Dispute: HC allows Bangalore City Civil Court to decide upon jurisdiction in the matter

Delhi High Court: The Division Bench comprising S. Ravindra Bhat and Yogesh Khanna, JJ. set aside the decision of the Single Bench wherein it was that the Bangalore City Civil Court had no jurisdiction to hear the dispute related to arbitration between ISRO’s Antrix Corporation and Devas Multimedia.

An agreement was entered between Antrix Corporation and Devas Multimedia and further terminated unilaterally by Antrix due to ‘national security reasons.’ The agreement provided settlement of the dispute by arbitration and Devas accordingly pulled Antrix to International Court of Arbitration i.e. ‘ICC’. Antrix approached Bangalore Court to restrain Devas from proceeding with the arbitration and stop the International Court from going ahead with the matter. In 2015, the International Court ruling asked Antrix to pay USD 672 million to Devas for unlawful termination of the agreement. Subsequently, in September 2015, Devas moved to Delhi High Court for implementation of the arbitral award by seeking attachment of bank accounts of Antrix but the latter challenged its jurisdiction. Thereafter, it was held Antrix’s pleas in the court in Bangalore were not maintainable.

Antrix contended that under Section 9 of Arbitration and Conciliation once an application was made to a “court”, only that “court” would have jurisdiction over all subsequent applications made by either party under the Act, by virtue of Section 42. On the other hand, it was contended by Devas that Antrix had claimed substantially similar reliefs in its Section 11 petition before the Supreme Court which was dismissed, thereby leading to an issue estoppel. Allowing Antrix to re-agitate similar claims in a Section 9 petition before the City Civil Court would amount to forum shopping and an abuse of process of the courts.

However, contentions of Antrix were upheld against those of Devas. Section 42 precluded the jurisdiction and the Bangalore Court being first seized of Antrix’s petition would first decide Antrix’s initial plea against the arbitration proceedings. If it is found to be maintainable and bonafide, then Section 42 would be applicable, however, if not then that application would be treated as non-est and application in Delhi High Court would not be hit by Section 42. [Antrix Corpn. Ltd. v. Devas Multimedia Pvt. Ltd., 2018 SCC OnLine Del 9338, decided on 30-05-2018]

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