Delhi High Court order on Future Group's appeal, Singapore arbitral tribunal to hear application closure
According to the plea, CCI's suspension of clearance given to the Amazon-Future deal results in the termination of the agreement between the two companies, hence the arbitration can get cancelled.
[Future Retail Limited v Amazon.com NV Investment Holding LLC and Ors] will be decided by the Delhi High Court tomorrow at 4.30 pm on Future Group's petitions seeking directions to an arbitration tribunal in Singapore.
The order will be passed tomorrow by Justice Amit Bansal, who on Monday heard the pleas of two companies affiliated with Future Group -- Future Retail Limited (FRL) and Future Coupons Limited (FCRL) -- and said as there would be no effect on the proceedings, the order would be passed.
Amazon has been dealing with an arbitration case regarding its 2019 merger with Future Group in Singapore. In deciding this case, the tribunal had issued an interim order that stopped Reliance Industries from selling Future Retail's assets.
Mukul Rohatgi and Harish Salve, the Senior Advocates appearing for the Future Group, explained to the Court that they are not asking the court to terminate the arbitration proceedings, rather to order that the arbitral tribunal consider their applications to terminate the arbitration proceedings before deciding on damages.
As a result, the termination application should be heard on January 5 since the tribunal has set January 6 and 7 as dates for determining damages.
Following the recent suspension of the clearances given to Amazon and Future's 2019 deal, Rohatgi argued that arbitration proceedings have reached a turning point.
Specifically, he asserted that the CCI order nullifies the agreement between the parties, which means that nothing under that agreement, including the arbitration proceedings, may continue.
"If the CCI approval fails, then the agreement fails, and therefore nothing can be accomplished under the agreement. If nothing can be accomplished under the contract then the arbitration is an act of illegitimacy" he said.
According to Salve, the tribunal has been rejecting nearly all of the demands made by his clients. The attorney questioned the way the matter was handled.
"My client is in danger of filing for bankruptcy." To fight its legal battles, Amazon has a budget of ₹8,500 crores. "We don't have the budget for such a program," he told the Court.
The argument continued that Amazon was only trying to stop Future Retail from doing business with Reliance Industries Limited.
Gopal Subramanium and Amit Sibal, senior advocates, however, asserted that Amazon will appeal the CCI order and the arbitration clause does not vanish with the deal since there was permission already in place for the transaction on the date of the agreement.
Moreover, both the lawyers agreed that the tribunal is not refusing to hear Future Group's termination request. It should be noted that the tribunal has already set January 8 for the hearing of the application, according to counsel.
"The petitions for the present have been preferred somewhat sheepishly. This tribunal has responded to all the parties in real-time, accommodating their needs and demands... Both the petitions are infructuous and immature at the same time. Despite the Tribunal has stated that it would hear the termination application on January 8, Sibal claims that no date was set.
As a consequence of several legal battles, the Amazon-Future Group deal has stalled, preventing Future's assets from being sold to Reliance.
The deal has not only been arbitrated before the Singapore tribunal but has also been litigated before the Delhi Court and the Supreme Court.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) began an investigation into the deal, and Amazon filed a lawsuit challenging that investigation in the Delhi High Court last month. According to Future Group, an ED inquiry was conducted as part of a "fishing and roving" investigation, in which it obtained legal advice and opinions from Amazon and other information that was not connected to the deal.
Earlier this year, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) had suspended the clearance based on an allegation that Amazon failed to inform the CCI about certain crucial information regarding its acquisition of 49 percent stake in Future under Section 6(2) of the Competition Act, 2002 (Act).
Moreover, it had also imposed a penalty of ₹202 crores on Amazon.