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Amazon urges SC to stop Future Group from selling assets to RIL

The apex court again started the much-awaited hearing on the high-profile legal battle between Amazon and Future (REUTERS)Premium
The apex court again started the much-awaited hearing on the high-profile legal battle between Amazon and Future (REUTERS)

In its argument before SC, which commenced hearings on its pleas against the amalgamation, Amazon said Singapore's EA award, restraining Future Retail Ltd from going ahead with its 24,713-cr merger deal with Reliance Retail, is 'valid' and needs to be executed

Mumbai: Global e-commerce giant Amazon on Tuesday once again urged the Supreme Court (SC) to restrain Kishore Biyani-founded Future Group from disposing of its assets to Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Industries Ltd.'s subsidiaries as a part of the Rs. 24,713 crore deal signed in August last year.

In its argument before the apex court, which commenced hearings on its pleas against the amalgamation, Amazon said Singapore's Emergency Arbitrator (EA) award, restraining Future Retail Ltd (FRL) from going ahead with its 24,713 crore merger deal with Reliance Retail, is “valid" and needs to be executed.

A bench comprising justices R F Nariman and B R Gavai started hearing the arguments from senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, appearing for Amazon.com NV Investment Holdings LLC, who apprised the apex court of the facts and legal proceedings so far in the case. The US-based e-commerce giant said the EA award of Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) was enforceable and the single-judge bench of the Delhi High Court rightly gave an interim order in its favour granting a stay on the ongoing amalgamation.

Subramanium said a division bench of the high court erred in entertaining the Future group's appeal and granting it relief by paving the way for the deal. Assailing the order, the senior counsel for Amazon said, “the emergency arbitrator (EA) is not a ‘coram non judice’ (not before a judge)" and hence the award of EA is enforceable and the high court under a provision of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act has to act to execute it and not sit in appeal against the interim award.

The apex court started the much-awaited hearing on the high-profile legal battle between Amazon and Future, which essentially is a part of the fierce competition among the country's retail giants to gain a beachhead in the e-commerce space in the wake of a rapidly growing demand for online shopping in India. Last week, Reliance Retail signed a deal to acquire Just Dial for close to $800 million just to arm the Ambani firm with an access to Just Dial’s database of merchant listings/retailers to expand JioMart’s fast-growing footprint further by integrating the JioMart app with JD Mart.

Many analysts believe that if integrated well, this combination of JioMart and JD Mart may put in place the building blocks of a ‘Super App’-- a term for a digital application handling the entire range of retail offerings, which was introduced by salt-to-software conglomerate Tata Sons last year as a part of the Tata Group's retail aspirations, especially in the e-commerce space.

Tata Group has recently acquired BigBasket which is a leader in the online grocery and edibles delivery space.

Amazon and Walmart-Flipkart, however, continue to be the top e-commerce players in the country, having started their journey more than a decade back. The apex court will continue to hear the matter before spelling out its verdict and the next date of hearing will be given by the court in the next two days.

Future Group owns the largest offline retail network in the country with over 1500 Big Bazaar and fbb stores. In 2019 August, Amazon had signed an agreement with Future Group only to get privileged access to Future Group stores and warehouses to achieve a speedier delivery of daily household products, low-cost apparels and accessories ordered by customers on Amazon's website. In February, the single bench had upheld an emergency arbitration ruling by the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) and restrained the Future Group from taking any step towards the Rs. 24,713 crore deal with RIL.

"All the international chambers of commerce today require an emergency arbitrator to give relief in urgent circumstances and there is nothing in the 1996 Act which prohibits appointment of emergency arbitrator...The law gives complete freedom to parties to choose the venue of arbitration. The order of an emergency arbitrator is binding on all parties except the arbitral tribunal, which has stopped Future Group from disposing off assets of FRL without seeking express approval of Amazon," noted Subramaniam during the hearing in Tuesday.

( with PTI inputs )

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