Arbitration stayed: Big relief for Future in feud with Amazon

Future Retail and Future Coupons had sought a stay on the arbitration proceedings, which were scheduled to be held from January 5-8.

While Justice Rekha Palli refused to halt ED's probe into alleged money laundering by Amazon, Additional Solicitor General SV Raju assured the court about not calling any more company officials to Delhi for questioning.
While Justice Rekha Palli refused to halt ED's probe into alleged money laundering by Amazon, Additional Solicitor General SV Raju assured the court about not calling any more company officials to Delhi for questioning.

A day after receiving a setback from a single-judge bench of the Delhi High Court, Future Retail on Wednesday got a reprieve from the court’s division bench, which stayed the arbitration proceedings initiated by Amazon before a Singapore tribunal.

Staying the arbitration proceedings, which the single judge had refused to stay on Tuesday, the division bench stated that there is a “prima facie case” in favour of the Future group companies in view of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) suspending its clearance given to Aamzon’s 2019 deal with Future Coupons (FCPL).

Future Retail and Future Coupons had sought a stay on the arbitration proceedings, which were scheduled to be held from January 5-8.

With the division bench’s stay order, the arbitration proceedings initiated by Amazon against Future Retail over the latter’s `24,500-crore merger deal with Reliance Retail will not take place unless the Supreme Court stays the latest HC order. According to sources, Amazon is likely to move the SC in a day or two.

Legal experts said courts normally stay international arbitration proceedings only in “rare” circumstances.

The division bench comprising Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh, while putting the arbitration proceedings on hold, said if the proceedings are not halted, this would cause an “irreparable loss” to Future Group.

Observing that “prima facie” the case is in favour of the Future group companies, the HC sought response from Amazon and posted the matter for further hearing on February 1. “We hereby stay further proceedings of arbitral tribunal till next date of hearing,” Justice Patel said, adding that the HC will look into issues dealt by the CCI and also the maintainability issue raised by Amazon on February 1.

The single judge, while refusing to halt the proceedings, had said on Tuesday that mere fixation of tight timelines or denial of requests for adjournment or deciding the order in which the pleas filed by the parties will be taken up cannot be reason enough to contend that the orders of the tribunal are perverse or lacking in inherent jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, another Delhi High Court bench took an exception to the Enforcement Directorate’s direction to Amazon seeking information about its employees, hired lawyers and other “irrelevant” details, saying that the probe agency should refrain from insisting on personal appearance of Amazon officials during the Covid-19 pandemic.

While Justice Rekha Palli refused to halt ED’s probe into alleged money laundering by Amazon, Additional Solicitor General SV Raju assured the court about not calling any more company officials to Delhi for questioning.

The next date of hearing is on January 12.

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