Amazon-Future dispute: SC to hear US e-commerce submissions tomorrow

The Supreme Court is due to hear submissions from US e-commerce giant Amazon on Monday, seeking an interim order to ensure the assets of Future Retail Limited (FRL), including ”Big Bazaar” stores, are not alienated until the dispute over its merger with Reliance Retail is decided by an arbitration tribunal.

A bench consisting of Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli, which had heard partial arguments on Amazon’s plea on April 1, released the case for closing submissions on April 4.

The bench had taken note of the submissions of both parties, Amazon and Future Group, that they had no objection to the resumption of arbitration proceedings and had stated with regard to ”the first question regarding the continuation of the arbitration , both of you accepted”.

“You both drop a little memo so that we can register it and the SLP can be eliminated. The other aspect is this AI, which is about the non-alienation of properties,” he said.

The court had also considered whether it could issue an interim order prohibiting FRL from disposing of its assets until the arbitral tribunal’s decision was reached in view of the fact that no owner of “grand bazaar shops” did not was present before him as a party.

“If the tenants or landlords are not before us, how can the court make an order prohibiting them from taking possession (of the stores),” he said.

Initially, lead counsel Gopal Subramanium, representing the US firm, said that regarding the resumption of arbitration proceedings, there was no difference of opinion between Amazon and Future Group.

“But there cannot be a sudden transfer of assets,” Subramanium had said, adding that the US company needed an interim order “against the disposition of the assets to any other party and the assets must continue. to remain with the FRL and operate with the FRL until the matter is resolved by the arbitral tribunal”.

He said that more than 800 FRL stores had been evacuated and taken over by the Reliance group.

Lead solicitor Harish Salve, appearing for FRL, had said around 374 stores were part of the group and he would not give them to anyone unless certain owners threw them away.

”My bank accounts are frozen and I cannot pay rent. Everyone hopes that if the scheme is successful, Reliance will come in and everyone will get the money,’ he said, adding that there was no money to pay the rents and more , if the lending banks come into play, the IBC (Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code) will come into play.

Amazon had apprehended the “disappearance” of assets and sought an interim order from the highest court to ensure the preservation of FRL’s assets, in addition to resuming arbitration over FRL’s merger agreement with Reliance Retail.

The bench had taken note of the American firm’s allegations that the “applecart was upset” by its rivals and had asked the Future Group firms – FRL and Future Coupons Limited (FCPL) – to respond to Amazon’s interim appeal. .

Amazon and Future Group are embroiled in a multi-forum dispute over the issue of FRL’s Rs 24,500 crore merger deal with Reliance Retail Limited after the US e-commerce giant took FRL to arbitration at the Center d Singapore International Arbitration in October 2020.

It was alleged by Amazon that on March 3, as many as 600 FRL stores were taken away by Reliance.

The plea was violently challenged by lawyers for Future Group on Tuesday.

The high court was told by Amazon that in addition to asking for the arbitration proceedings to resume, he wanted an order so that FRL’s assets would be there for him if he won the arbitration because “the basket of apples was upset.”

The bench is hearing Amazon’s appeal against the January 5 order of the Delhi High Court, which stayed proceedings in the arbitral tribunal regarding Future Retail’s merger deal with Reliance Retail.

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