For Amazon, senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam informed a bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices Hima Kohli and J B Pardiwala the contesting parties had on April 6 consented before the SC to continuance of arbitration provided the SIAC tribunal first decided the Future group’s application for termination of the proceedings. He said the tribunal had dismissed the Future group’s application for termination of proceedings on June 28, hence, the proceedings should be taken to logical end with an award from the tribunal.
He said since in the meantime the retail assets of Future were taken over by Reliance Retail, Amazon amended its claim, which was allowed by the tribunal on October 11. The tribunal has sought response from the opposite side and fixed November 28 for commencing the final hearing on the claim petitions. Subramaniam said that now the contesting party is claiming that their expert is unavailable in November as he was going to Doha to watch the FIFA Football World Cup. “This is nothing but a tactics to stall arbitration proceedings, despite the
For Future group, senior advocate K V Vishwanathan said his client had the right to challenge before the Delhi High Court the tribunal’s decision to reject the plea for termination of arbitration proceedings. The HC has reserved its order on the petition on Wednesday after granting extensive hearing to both sides. “Why should the SC intervene at this stage,” he asked. Moreover, the original claim petition has been completely altered by Amazon, which now seeks only monetary compensation, he added.
Referring to the April 6 order of the SC, CJI Chandrachud-led bench told Vishwanathan – “Your clients are clever by the half. It appears to be the idea of a well-heeled party to stultify the international arbitral tribunal. The sanctity of an arbitral tribunal, that too an international tribunal, must be maintained. As CJI, I would not allow stultification of arbitration tribunals. On one side, we call ourselves a global community and on the other hand, we indulge in a manner to stall arbitration proceedings. We will ensure that the arbitration proceedings go on as scheduled.”
Agreeing to post Amazon’s petition for hearing on Friday, the bench told Vishwanathan that if the HC gives its verdict favouring the Future group, then it could be a different scenario. Otherwise, the arbitration proceedings should continue, it said.
The Future group wants scrapping the Amazon initiated arbitration proceedings for stopping sale of Future Retail assets to Reliance for nearly Rs 25,000 crore. The tribunal had stayed the deal between Future Retail and Reliance Retail. Giving a new twist, the Competition Commission of India had withdrawn its earlier permission to Amazon to invest Rs 1,473 crore in Future Coupons, on the basis of which Amazon had claimed a right to be part of the decision for sale of Future Retail stores and the arbitral tribunal had granted an interim stay.
When CCI withdrew its permission for the investment, the Future group had moved the Tribunal seeking scrapping of the proceedings as Amazon had no longer any authority to dictate about Future Retail, which had claimed to have become unviable with creditors breathing down its neck. When the main issue branched into several areas and the litigation became multi-layered, Amazon had moved the SC challenging the Delhi HC’s decision to stay the arbitration proceedings.
While the Amazon-Future litigation docket increased in size much to the chagrin of the court, the Future group had sought permission from the SC for completing the steps needed for NCLT approval of the Future-Reliance scheme for sale of retail assets without the NCLT giving final approval. But, Reliance staged a coup and through backdoor acquired a majority of Future Retail stores by entering into lease agreement with the landlords in whose premises the shops operated. Amazon had requested the SC to order the status quo of the Future retail assets.