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Delhi HC rejects Future Group request to end intervention before SIAC

The Delhi High Court dismissed Future Group’s plea seeking termination of the arbitration proceedings initiated by Amazon before the Singapore International Arbitration Court (SIAC).

Justice C Hari Shankar said that he has not expressed any opinion on the merits of the arguments raised by the parties and the arbitration before the SIAC will continue as intended.

“It is clarified that I have not expressed any opinion on the merits of the controversy between the parties and that the arbitral proceedings may continue unimpeded and uninfluenced by any observation contained in this judgment,” he said.

The Future group had approached the Delhi High Court against the Singapore arbitral tribunal’s order that dismissed its plea to terminate arbitration proceedings started by Amazon against the Rs 25,000-crore merger deal between Future Retail (FRL) and Reliance Retail, apart from an additional investment of Rs 2,400 crore to be infused by Reliance.

Amazon had said its Rs 1,431-crore investment (49 per cent equity) in Future Group does not allow the latter to sell its assets to certain companies, including Reliance.

The year-long battle pertains to a decision by the Future Group to sell its Big Bazaar retail business to Reliance Retail, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries.

Future group had moved the Delhi High Court under Article 227, which says that high courts shall have superintendence over all courts and tribunals throughout the territories in relation to which it exercises jurisdiction, challenging the decision of the SIAC not to terminate the arbitration proceedings.

Amazon on November 17, represented by Senior Advocate Gopal Subramaniam, had approached the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) D Y Chandrachud, Justices Hima Kohli, and JB Pardiwala saying the Future group was trying its best to stall arbitral proceedings on November 28. The CJI told Subramaniam that he will ensure the proceedings go on as planned.

The Supreme Court said it was concerned that the Future group was trying to stall arbitral proceedings at the SIAC in its legal row with Amazon.

“The intention of your client is to defeat the arbitration; your client is stultifying the order of the apex court. As the CJI, I am concerned. All ploys by well-heeled parties to delay the arbitration proceeding. Your client is trying to be too clever by half,” CJI Chandrachud told Senior Advocate KV Viswanathan who appeared for Future group in the case.

More legal hurdles

SIAC has been hearing the arbitration between Amazon and Future Group regarding the 2019 deal and on June 28 this year, the tribunal rejected two applications filed by the Future Group seeking termination of the arbitral proceedings.

The Kishore Biyani-led Future Group argued that in December 2021, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) had suspended the clearance for the deal, saying Amazon was required to clarify the ‘economic’ and ‘strategic purpose’ of the proposed investment under Section 6(2) of the Competition Act, 2002.

The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), on June 13 this year, upheld the order of CCI(dated December 17, 2021), not to give a nod to Amazon for its 49 per cent stake in Future Coupons Private Limited (FCPL).

Amazon had argued that it had submitted all the documents regarding the investment before the CCI.

The appellate tribunal, however, upheld the order of the competition watchdog, imposing a fine of Rs 200 crore on Amazon for non-disclosure of information on combinations under the Competition Act 2002.

Amazon then moved the Supreme Court on July 29 against the order of NCLAT.

The Supreme Court will now hear Amazon’s plea against the Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) ruling suspending approval for the e-commerce giant’s 2019 deal investment in Future group on January 10, 2023.



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