French Court orders freezing of Indian Government Property in Paris

Munmun Kaur

Published On: January 14, 2022 at 11:00 IST

Recently, a French Court ordered freezing of a property owned by Indian government, in Paris. The Order was given in a plea by Devas shareholders who sought enforcement of a $1.3 billion arbitration award against India over a cancelled satellite contract.

A Paris apartment in the posh 16th arrondissement which has served as the residence of the Indian Deputy Chief of Mission, is valued at 3.8 million euros. The French Court allowed Devas shareholders to register a “Hypotheque Judiciaire” or a judicial mortgage on the property.

Earlier, in July last year, Britain’s Cairn Energy froze the same property in an attempt to get New Delhi to pay $1.2 billion against the arbitration award, overturning levy of taxes on the company retrospectively. Although, a month later a law annulling all retrospective tax demands and refunding all money collected to enforce such demands, was passed which led to the Cairn withdrawing all cases brought against India all over the country to collect the arbitration award.

Jay Newman who is a senior adviser to Devas shareholders, said, “India has assets like this all over the world. This is just the beginning. We’re planning many more seizures.”

In 2005, Devas Multimedia signed an agreement with Antrix — the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), to provide multimedia services to mobile users using the leased S-band satellite spectrum. The whole issue began when in 2011 the deal was cancelled on the ground that the auction of the broadband spectrum was mired in fraud and that the government needed the S-band satellite spectrum for national security and other social purposes.

As an outcome of the deal being cancelled, Devas Multimedia initiated arbitration at the International Chambers of Commerce (ICC) along with 2 separate arbitrations being initiated under the bilateral investment treaty (BIT) by Mauritius investors in Devas Multimedia under the India-Mauritius BIT and by Deutsche Telekom — a German company — under the India Germany BIT. Unfortunately, India lost all three disputes.

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