SpiceJet (SG, Delhi International) has came out swinging against claims made by its former promotor Kalanithi Maran and his affiliated entity KAL Airways regarding a damages claim of INR13.23 billion rupees (USD158.9 million). In a sharply worded May 28 media release, the budget carrier called the claim "not only legally untenable but also a regurgitation of previously rejected claims by the Arbitral Tribunal and then the Delhi High Court."

This followed Maran and KAL announcing on May 27 that they intended to pursue a damages claim stemming from a 2015 deal between Maran and the current promotor and managing director of SpiceJet, Ajay Singh, which saw majority ownership and control of the airline pass from Maran to Singh.

That deal included an agreement for Maran and KAL Airways to recapitalise the then near-insolvent airline to the tune of INR6.79 billion (USD81.5 million) in exchange for the Singh-controlled SpiceJet issuing them warrants and preference shares. Maran and KAL ponied up the money, but Singh/SpiceJet never issued the warrants and preference shares. The matter has been the subject of litigation since 2017.

Things appeared to come to a head in August 2023 when the High Court of Delhi declined to overturn a 2018 arbitration order requiring SpiceJet to pay INR5.79 billion (USD69.5 million). This amount covered INR3.08 billion (USD36.9 million) for the undelivered warrants and INR2.7 billion (USD32.6 million) for the preference shares, plus interest.

SpiceJet had already paid INR3.7 billion (USD44.4 million) of the amount due and provided a bank guarantee for the remainder. However, it took issue with the interest charges (12% p.a., rising to 18% p.a. if it failed to pay instalments by certain fixed dates). The court enforced the interest orders but dismissed Maran's INR13 billion (USD156 million) claim for damages.

On May 17, 2024, a division bench of the Delhi High Court overturned the August 2023 order, with the case now returned to a single-judge bench for reconsideration. Ten days later, Maran and KAL Airways announced they would appeal the judgement, calling it "deeply flawed and warrant[ing] further scrutiny."

Simultaneously, they said they would revive the multi-billion damages claim, saying it had always been "an integral part of their quest for justice”. The appealing parties added that SpiceJet's behaviour had caused “enormous hardship to both KAL Airways and Kalanithi Maran for over a decade”.

In their media release this week, SpiceJet said the damages claim was baseless. "This claim was thoroughly examined and subsequently rejected by a panel of three retired Supreme Court judges," the statement reads. "Following this, KAL Airways and Kalanithi Maran appealed to the single judge bench of the Delhi High Court, seeking the same amount in damages, which was again rejected by the court."

SpiceJet claims Maran and KAL did not to pursue any appeal before the appellate jurisdiction and that as a result the matter was finalised. "This matter is devoid of any merit and appears to be an endeavour to sensationalise the issue and mislead the public," their statement said. "Following the [May 17] success before the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court, SpiceJet will now pursue a refund of INR4.5 billion" (USD54 million).