High Court to hear Future Group's appeal Indian conglomerate challenges single judge order passed by the Singapore Arbitrational Tribunal The Delhi High Court is hearing the appeal filed by the Future Group challenging a single judge order. The court had dismissed its plea challenging the two orders passed by the Singapore Arbitration Tribunal. Future Group had sought termination of...
Access the exclusive LEGAL ERAStories,Editorial and Expert Opinion
High Court to hear Future Group's appeal
Indian conglomerate challenges single judge order passed by the Singapore Arbitrational Tribunal
The Delhi High Court is hearing the appeal filed by the Future Group challenging a single judge order. The court had dismissed its plea challenging the two orders passed by the Singapore Arbitration Tribunal. Future Group had sought termination of the arbitration proceedings instituted by Amazon.
A bench led by Chief Justice DN Patel had listed the matter after senior advocate Dayan Krishnan on behalf of the Future Group made an urgent hearing request.
Earlier, Justice Amit Bansal had dismissed the petitions filed by the Future Group. In the pleas, reliance was placed on an order passed by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) in December last. It had kept the approval granted for Amazon's deal with the Future Group in abeyance.
Subsequent to the CCI order, an application was moved before the Singapore tribunal seeking closure of arbitration proceedings stating that any assertion of contractual rights against Future Group by Amazon would be in direct contravention of the CCI order.
Future Group had pointed out that the schedule set down for the hearing of the cross-examination of the expert witnesses by the tribunal from 5 to 8 January 2022, was a complete travesty.
It averred that the tribunal was informed by the Future Group that during the ongoing proceedings, six members of its legal team of 12 lawyers attending the case had tested Covid-19 positive. It was, therefore, not possible for them to cope with the directions of the tribunal, file submissions and instruct the concerned counsel on cross-examination of the witnesses.
According to the Future Group, the impugned orders passed by the tribunal were illegal and without jurisdiction of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act. Thus, it should be quashed.
The court was of the view that just because the hearing of the termination application was scheduled for a date after the hearing of the expert witnesses, it did not mean that the tribunal was not willing to consider the applications on merits or was discounting the merits of the said applications.
The court further noted that prima facie, there was nothing to suggest that the tribunal denied equal opportunity to the parties or that it was not accommodating towards requests made by the Future Group.
It added, "The COVID pandemic is a reality that the world has been living with for the last two years and may continue to live with for the near foreseeable future. Therefore, the business community at large as well as professionals, including lawyers/law firms, would have to learn to live with this reality.
"They would have to continue with their regular professional and business activities subject to any regulations that may be imposed by the state/national governments. Court hearings as well as hearings in arbitrations have been successfully conducted through the virtual mode."
It further said that all the parties in the arbitration proceedings were big corporations having a battery of lawyers representing them before multiple forums. The court maintained that even when some lawyers had tested positive the parties and their law firms endeavored to make alternate arrangements.
"An adjournment at the last minute cannot be sought in respect of an international commercial arbitration of this magnitude, involving arbitrators, counsels and experts from different jurisdictions," the court said.
It ruled, "Mere fixation of tight timelines or denial of requests for adjournment by the tribunal or deciding the order in which the tribunal considers the applications filed by the parties cannot be reason enough to contend that the orders of the tribunal are perverse or lacking in inherent jurisdiction.
"Therefore, no exceptional circumstances or perversity have been demonstrated in the petitions or during the hearing to warrant the exercise of jurisdiction by the court under the Constitution of India," it added.
The Amazon-Future deal has given rise to several rounds of litigation in India. Amazon had invoked arbitration proceedings in Singapore to halt Future Retail's deal with the Reliance Group. The Singapore arbitrator to halt the Future-Reliance deal passed an emergency award.
The Future Group in the Delhi High Court challenged this. Ultimately, the matter reached the Supreme Court, which approved the emergency award passed by the Singapore arbitrator.