The Supreme Court on November 29 extended by two weeks the deadline for the competition watchdog to wind up hearing in a plea filed by a traders’ body against a 2019 deal between Amazon and Future Group.
The American e-commerce giant is given liberty by the apex court to present its side before the Competition Commission of India (CCI) and raise its objection in accordance with the law.
A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana said that it is not inclined to interfere with the CCI proceedings but will give an extension of two weeks to the commission beyond the two-week deadline that was set by the Delhi High Court.
The CCI had concluded hearing in the matter last week where the central issue was essentially questioning the validity of the 2019 deal between Amazon and Future Coupons Pvt Ltd. The Future Group firm has itself filed the complaint before the CCI asking for a reconsideration of the approval.
The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) had moved the high court, seeking the CCI proceedings to be expedited which resulted in the two-week deadline for the commission to complete the proceedings.
The top court on Monday asked what was the tearing hurry for the commission to wind up the hearing and reserve its order when the matter had reached the Supreme Court.
Amazon had moved the Supreme Court after the high court order. The appeal was mentioned by Amazon on November 25 but the CCI proceeded to reserve its orders in the matter being constrained by the high court’s order, while Amazon waited for its appeal to be heard by the top court.
Prior to the high court’s order, the CCI was scheduled to deliberate on the issue on January 4.
Amazon failed to stall the CCI proceedings at the Supreme Court on November 29, people familiar with the matter told Moneycontrol.
The CCI, being prima facie satisfied, had issued a show cause notice to Amazon in June 2021, asking the e-commerce major to reply as to why action should not be taken against it under Sections 43A, 44 and 45 of the Competition Act for misrepresentations while seeking approval for its investment in Future Coupon Private Limited (FCPL).
However, the watchdog did not pass any order on the show cause notice, the people familiar said after the court verdict.
Meanwhile, CAIT got an order from the Delhi High Court that CCI should dispose of the show cause notice within two weeks from November 16, against which Amazon filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) at the apex court that came up for hearing on November 29.
At today’s hearing in the Supreme Court, Amazon’s counsel argued that CCI should not be allowed to pass an order on the show cause notice since it will impact the arbitration proceedings. The top court, after hearing FCPL and CAIT, did not stay the proceedings before CCI and directed the CCI to decide the show cause notice within two weeks after hearing Amazon’s arguments.
Future Group has been embroiled in a legal battle with Amazon since 2020 when the US major invoked arbitration to block the assets deal between Future Retail and Reliance Industries’ retail arm.
Future Group subsequently has been urging the competition regulator to reconsider the approval granted by the body for the investment deal between Amazon and Future Coupons on the grounds that the American retailer made misleading representations before the Indian regulator while seeking approval for the deal.The CAIT had sought for the proceedings before the CCI to be expedited, which led the high court to set a deadline of two weeks from November 16 for the competition commission to conclude the matter.