Amazon-Future-Reliance case: SC stays proceedings before Delhi HC

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Kishor Biyani

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed all the proceedings before the Delhi High Court relating to the Amazon-Future-Reliance case.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana asked all statutory authorities including National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and Competition Commission of India (CCI) not to pass any final order relating to the case for four weeks.

The Bench will hear the case after four weeks.

The apex court was hearing an appeal of the Future Retail Ltd (FRL) against the Delhi High Court order relating to the implementation of its earlier direction restraining FRL from going ahead with its merger deal with Reliance Retail.

Today, the Bench stated that it was passing the order taking into consideration the fact that the challenge to Emergency Award (EA) is pending before Singapore International Arbitration Centre.

The top court passed the order after hearing arguments from senior advocates Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi for Future group and senior advocate Gopal Subramanium for Amazon.

The lawyers of the Future group said that the High Court would go ahead with the enforcement of Singapore's Emergency Arbitrator (EA) award in case stay is not granted in its favour by the apex court.

The High Court on August 17 while hearing the plea of US-based e-commerce giant Amazon, seeking enforcement of the award by EA restraining FRL from going ahead with the deal, had said that it would implement the earlier March 18 order of the single-judge bench that restrained FRL from going ahead with the merger.

The High Court had said that in the absence of any stay from the top court, it has no option but to enforce the order passed by its single judge. The FRL then moved the apex court against the August 17 order.

On March 18, the High Court had ordered attachment of the assets of Future Coupons Private Limited (FCPL), FRL, Kishore Biyani and 10 other promoters. It had also asked the FRL and its associates to file an affidavit detailing their assets within one month and show cause as to why they not be detained under civil prison for three months for violating the Singapore EA's order.

The top court on August 6 had ruled in favour of Amazon and held that the EA award that restrained FRL from going ahead with its merger deal with Reliance Retail, is enforceable in Indian law under Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996.

A Bench headed by Justice Rohinton F Nariman had upheld the Single-judge Bench order of the Delhi High Court.

Amazon and FRL are embroiled in a legal fight over FRL's Rs 24,713 crore merger deal with Reliance Retail.

Amazon has a 49 per cent stake in FCPL, which in turn owns a 9.82 per cent stake in FRL. Amazon's contention is that it has invested Rs 1,431 crore in FCPL on the clear understanding that FRL would be the sole vehicle for its retail business and its retail assets would not be alienated without consent and never to a Restricted Person.

FRL, on the other hand, has objected to the enforcement of the EA award saying that it is not an order under Section 17(1) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act and hence not enforceable in India. However, later the top court said the EA award is enforceable in India.

FRL has contended that the Rs 24,731 crore deal was very important to save its 25,000 employees. It had said that as per the deal, Reliance will not only take over FRL's shops but also all its liabilities. (ANI)

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