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(Photo: HT)
(Photo: HT)

Future Retail approaches Delhi HC, seeks relief against Amazon

Amazon found relief from the Singapore International Arbitration Centre by arguing that Future Group had breached their contract with the 24,713-cr RIL deal

Future Retail on Saturday approached the Delhi High Court seeking relief against SIAC stay order on 24,713 cr-deal with Reliance Industries.

The Future Group firm has contended that Amazon is "misusing" the interim order passed by an emergency arbitrator of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) on 25 October, 2020.

"Please note that the Company has filed necessary suit in the Hon’ble Delhi High Court on 7th November, 2020 in relation to seeking necessary reliefs against Amazon.com NV Investment Holdings LLC (“Amazon") from interfering with the Transaction by misusing an Interim Order dated 25th October, 2020 issued by an Emergency Arbitrator, appointed by the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC). The interim Order dated 25th October, 2020 is passed in an arbitration proceeding initiated by Amazon inter-alia against the Company under an Agreement, wherein the Company is not a party to the Agreement.

"The Company has inter-alia made all entities parties to the suit which were parties to the arbitration proceedings, this includes the promoters of the Company. It may be noted that the reliefs sought in the suit are only against Amazon," the company said in a stock exchange filing.

Amazon had moved the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) arguing that Future Group had breached their contract. Amazon, in 2019, had bought a 49 per cent stake in one of Future's unlisted firms, Future Coupons Ltd, with the right to buy into flagship Future Retail after a period between 3 and 10 years. Future Coupons owns a 7.3 per cent stake in Future Retail.

On October 25, SIAC passed an interim award in favour of Amazon, with a single-judge bench of V K Rajah barring Future Retail from taking any step to dispose of or encumber its assets or issuing any securities to secure any funding from a restricted party. Amazon wrote to market regulator Sebi and stock exchanges, urging them to take into consideration the Singapore arbitrator's interim judgement.

On November 1, Future Retail Ltd (FRL) made a filing to the exchanges saying that the Singapore arbitrator's interim order against its deal with RIL is "not binding", and any attempt to enforce it will be "resisted".

Questioning the validity of the order, FRL said the order was passed in arbitration proceedings initiated by Amazon by invoking an arbitration clause in a contract to which it is not a party.

"The EA (Emergency Arbitrator) order is not enforceable under the provisions of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 and is not binding on FRL. Any attempt on the part of Amazon to enforce the EA Order shall be resisted by FRL to the fullest extent available under Indian law. FRL is also in the process of taking appropriate legal action to protect its rights," the filing said.

As per the SIAC interim order, a three-member arbitration panel needs to be set up within 90 days with one judge each being appointed by Future and Amazon along with a third neutral judge.

In the filing on Sunday, FRL argued that it has been advised that "an Emergency Arbitrator has no legal status" under Part I of the Indian Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 and therefore, the proceedings are "void and Coram non judice".

The EA order having been passed by an authority without jurisdiction is a "nullity under Indian law", it had said.

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