Delhi HC seeks Amazon response to Future Retail plea

By: |
November 11, 2020 5:15 AM

Amazon is not a party to Future Coupon's shareholding agreement either but it is trying to interfere in the Future-Reliance deal.

Amazon argued that Future Retail was party to the agreement between Amazon and Future Coupons.Amazon argued that Future Retail was party to the agreement between Amazon and Future Coupons.

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday sought Amazon’s response on a plea by Future Retail (FRL) alleging that the e-commerce major was interfering in its Rs 24,713-crore deal with Reliance Retail on the basis of an interim order by a Singapore arbitrator. Justice Mukta Gupta issued summons to Amazon, Future Coupons (FCL) and Reliance Retail (RRL) on the FRL suit and asked them to file their written statements within 30 days. The court also said that the issue of maintainability of the suit, raised by Amazon, would be kept open. The order was passed after hearing day-long arguments on behalf of FRL, FCL, Reliance and part arguments by Amazon. The arguments on behalf of Amazon will continue on Wednesday.

Future Retail urged the Delhi High Court to restrain Amazon.com NV Investment Holdings from approaching regulatory bodies like the Competition Commission of India (CCI) and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) against stalling its transaction with Reliance Retail.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for FRL, submitted that the company is not challenging the Singapore International Arbitration Centre’s (SIAC) order that restrained it from selling its assets to Reliance Retail but just highlighting that it was not recognised under Indian laws. He said the concept of emergency arbitration (EA) was not there in Indian arbitration law and therefore, he only wanted an order from the court restraining Amazon from interfering in its Rs 24,713 crore deal with Reliance Retail. “I want Amazon to stop writing letters asserting that my transactional is illegal. Please don’t interfere with my contract,” he said.

Future Group and Amazon have been locked in a battle after the US-based company took FRL into an emergency arbitration over alleged breach of contract. The SIAC on October 25 passed an interim order in favour of Amazon, barring FRL from taking any step to dispose of or encumber its assets or issuing any securities to secure any funding from a restricted party. Subsequently, Amazon wrote to Sebi, stock exchanges and CCI, urging them to take into consideration the Singapore arbitrator’s interim decision as it is a binding order.

Salve told the HC that Amazon is a shareholder in Future Coupon but not in Future Retail. Amazon is not a party to Future Coupon’s shareholding agreement either but it is trying to interfere in the Future-Reliance deal. He said that the US-based company is trying to mislead the Indian authorities by giving the impression that the Singapore arbitration award is legally binding while it is not.

Appearing for Reliance companies, senior counsel AM Singhvi stated that Amazon is neither helping Future Retail nor it is allowing others to help the company.

Amazon argued that Future Retail was party to the agreement between Amazon and Future Coupons. Its senior counsel Gopal Subramanian pointed that both the Future Group companies are promoted by Kishore Biyani, and even before the Singapore arbitration panel they appeared as one party. Amazon also argued that Indian law grants sanctity to international arbitration orders if the parties were willing participants. “Under SIAC rules, definition of arbitrator includes Emergency Arbitrator. The stand of the plaintiff before the Emergency Arbitrator was that Future Group was one. The stand of the Future Group was that it will appoint its arbitrator soon,” he said.

However, the judges told Amazon that “in the Indian law, there is no concept of emergency arbitrator. There is only Section 9 under the Arbitration Act. They (the Future group) is arguing that since it is not legal in India, hence doesn’t apply to them”.

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