The Supreme Court of India
The Supreme Court (SC), on November 23, deferred the hearing in the legal tussle between Amazon and Future group of companies on account of the inconvenience caused by the voluminous documents placed on record by the parties.
The Chief Justice of India led bench of the top court questioned both the sides over filing bulky volumes of documents ranging to over 20 compilations under the name of “convenience compilation”.
Directing both sides to file a smaller number of documents, the court adjourned the hearing to December 8.
During the hearing on November 23, Amazon told the apex court that it had also challenged the recent order passed by the Delhi High Court - directing the Competition Commission of India to decide on a plea filed by the Confederation of All India Traders within two weeks.
The CAIT has sought revocation of approval granted to Amazon on its deal with Future group back in 2019. The CCI was scheduled to take up the matter for consideration on Jan 4, however, the window for this was reduced to two weeks after the high court’s decision.
The SC, in no uncertain terms said today that now all legal cases involving Amazon or Future group companies can be clubbed together and the specific case concerning the CCI approval on CAIT’s plea will be heard separately. This appeal is expected to come up for hearing later this week.
Future group moved the apex court earlier in November challenging a Singapore Tribunal’s decision to freeze the asset sale deal between two of India’s largest retailers – Future Retail and Reliance Industries (RIL).
On the other hand, US e-retailer, Amazon, relied on the same arbitration award and has urged the apex court to stay the permission granted by the Mumbai bench of National Company Law Tribunal to Future Retail and Reliance Retail to hold shareholder meetings to discuss the merger deal.
The top court had agreed to hear both the pleas when they came up for hearing earlier this month.
The dispute between Amazon and Future group dates back to 2019 when the American retailer had made an investment in one of the Future group firms – Future Coupons Pvt Ltd. The agreement spelled out a prohibitory clause which barred Future coupons from entering into any business with a host of entities including the Mukesh Dhirubhai Ambani group.
When Future Coupons and Kishore Biyani led public listed company Future Retail announced an asset sale deal with Reliance Industries wholly owned subsidiary Reliance Retail Pvt Ltd, Amazon invoked arbitration and objected to the merger citing its agreement with Future Coupons.
In October last year, an emergency arbitrator passed an award staying the merger which kicked off a long first leg of litigation in Indian courts where the validity of this award was under challenge.
At the highest forum, the SC - earlier in 2021 - held that the emergency award is valid under the Indian law of arbitration and restored the Delhi High Court’s order which had found Biyanis and the key managerial persons in Future group to be in wilful violation of the emergency award. The apex court had also barred all fora and regulators from passing any final orders to give effect to the contested merger.
Meanwhile, a duly constituted arbitration panel affirmed what was ruled by the emergency arbitrator and held that Future Retail is a valid party to the agreement between Future Coupons and Amazon which has now kicked off a second round of litigation in Indian courts.Disclosure: MoneyControl is a part of the Network18 group. Network18 is controlled by Independent Media Trust, of which Reliance Industries is the sole beneficiary.