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Amazon vs Future Retail | Restraining of FRL-Reliance Retail deal may lead to job losses: Harish Salve

Referring to the agreement between Future Coupons Private Limited (FCPL) and Amazon, eminent lawyer Harish Salve argued that the real intention of Amazon - as it shows - was to blow smoke in the eyes of the Indian authorities.

January 29, 2021 / 10:30 PM IST
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Appearing for Kishore Biyani-led Future Retail Ltd (FRL) in the Amazon vs Future Retail arbitration case in the Delhi High Court, eminent lawyer Harish Salve on January 29 hit out at Amazon, saying restraining of FRL-Reliance Retail deal may result in employees losing jobs.

The Delhi High Court is hearing Amazon's plea seeking the enforcement of the award by Singapore's Emergency Arbitrator restraining Future Group from going ahead with its deal with Reliance Retail.

Reiterating fellow advocate Darius Khambata's arguments that Single Judge held that Emergency Award had legal status but not under the terms of Section 17, Salve said the Single judge order clearly stated that since the matter is before statutory authorities, it would be decided in accordance with law and not Emergency Arbitrator Award.

"COVID-19 pandemic hit FRL badly, when all shops were shut, the revenues flunked to zero. We can’t stop the banks from invoking the pledge. According to the agreement, unless FCPL permits, I will not sell, I already have permission from FCPL. But they believe that FRL needs Amazon’s permission. If I need this permission from an American company, that would mean that it has management rights over me," Bar and Bench quoted Salve as arguing in the court.

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Harish Salve said both the company (FRL) and its employees' jobs have to be saved. "Reliance said it will keep all the jobs and business. If this transaction cancels, the shops will close," he added.

Referring to the agreement between Future Coupons Private Ltd (FCPL) and Amazon, Salve argued that the real intention of Amazon - as it shows - was to blow smoke in the eyes of the Indian authorities, and further referred to other FCPL documents and shareholding rights.

Salve said among the two agreements, one is between Amazon and FCPL. "There is a listed entity FRL. FCPL is a Biyani company. While India opened up FDI, in certain sectors it was held back. FDI in multi-brand retail was held back. Today if M&S wants to come in, they can. But if a big store like Walmart comes to India, they can't. These giants will put pressure on Indian shops. It will get crushed," he said.

Salve said Amazon had a deal with FCPL and signed an agreement with Biyani, adding, FCPL has a shareholding agreement with FRL, while FRL has no agreement with Amazon.

Alleging that Amazon told the Competition Commission of India (CCI) that it was here to grow FCPL business, the door to Biyani selling its share is yet  to open. Apart from this, Salve argued that Amazon invoked Arbitration under FCPL agreement but made FRL a party, despite FRL not having any Arbitration agreement with Amazon.

"I filed the suit to stop Amazon from saying that they have rights in me. Single judge says you are right. Single judge says since matter is before statutory authorities, they will decide in accordance with law and not Emergency Arbitrator Award. Hence they are in appeal.. today if there is an Emergency Award and a Single Judge order, the court has to go with the Single Judge," Salve added.

Following this, Salve showed the FCPL and FRL Share Holding Agreement (SHA) to the court and said the third parties are investors in FRL and it is a listed company. He also referred to the substantive rights under the SHA.

After listening to the arguments of Harish Salve, Darius Khambata and Gopal Subramanium, Justice JR Midha issued notices to FRL, FCPL, Biyani and other related parties and listed the matter for further hearing on February 1.

Disclosure: Reliance Industries Ltd. is the sole beneficiary of Independent Media Trust which controls Network18 Media & Investments Ltd.

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