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MUMBAI : Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud told Future Group that the Supreme Court would not allow the Kishore Biyani-led group to impede the ongoing arbitration proceedings with Amazon.com Inc.

On Thursday, Amazon alleged that the Indian retailer was constantly trying to stall the arbitration proceedings.

While hearing the matter, Chief Justice Chandrachud told Future Group, “You cannot keep stultifying the proceedings before the arbitral tribunal, and this is just a ploy to delay the proceedings".

Amazon has been fighting a bitter legal battle with Future Group for more than two years in various courts in India and in Singapore
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Amazon has been fighting a bitter legal battle with Future Group for more than two years in various courts in India and in Singapore (AFP)

The US e-commerce giant is seeking damages from Future Group related to its 1,400 crore investment in a Future Group company.

Amazon has been fighting a bitter legal battle with Future Group for more than two years in various courts in India and in Singapore over a 24,713-crore deal to sell the Indian company’s retail, wholesale, logistics and warehousing assets to Reliance Industries.

The deal has, however, collapsed after Reliance lowered the proposed deal value, following which the debt-laden Future Group’s lenders rejected the offer.

This led to Reliance withdrawing its proposal to purchase the assets.

Senior counsel Gopal Subramanium, representing Amazon, told the court that Future Group expressed its unhappiness at the fact that the tribunal was still going ahead with the arbitration proceedings despite the expert involved being unavailable due to the football World Cup in Qatar.

To which the top court lashed out at Future Group, saying, “This is an international arbitration... Is this how the courts of this country will bring repute to the process? Global India must maintain the sanctity of international arbitral proceedings".

We will not let the arbitration process be stultified, Chandrachud said. “All ploys by well-heeled parties to delay the arbitration...Your client is trying to be too clever by half. As a Chief Justice of this court, I am concerned."

He also called out the Indian retailer for filing over 200 petitions to stall the arbitration proceedings.

The Chief Justice listed the matter for further hearing on 25 November.

He directed the parties to go before the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) on 28 November.

In June, SIAC rejected a Future Group plea seeking termination of arbitration proceedings over the US giant’s investment in Future Coupons Pvt. Ltd.

In its order, SIAC held that it would continue with the arbitration proceedings that began in October 2020 after Future Group proposed to sell its assets to Reliance industries.

Last month, Future Group approached the Delhi high court against the SIAC ruling.

Amazon, in its petition before the top court, said that it is constrained to file the present petition because of the unusual circumstances of the case, where the arbitral tribunal fixed dates for cross-examination of the expert witnesses as far back as July and Future Group has repeatedly sought to adjourn these hearings on the ground of unavailability of the Future Group’s witness.

Despite the international tribunal accommodating the parties on requested dates for the hearings, Future Group, through two non-maintainable petitions, circuitously sought an amendment to the procedural timetable fixed with the consent of both the parties, set under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 Amazon said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Priyanka Gawande

Priyanka Gawande is a senior legal correspondent at Mint. She has worked as legal reporter for four years with both television and digital mediums. Based in Mumbai, she reports on disputes across sectors including banking, corporates and finance. This also includes insolvency and bankruptcy cases and intellectual property rights (IPR) litigation. Her focus also comprises tracking capital markets and disputes relating to securities law. Previously, Priyanka worked with Informist Media for 2.5 years covering major insolvency and bankruptcy cases and corporate developments. She started her career in journalism with Business Television India (BTVi) where she reported on primary markets, banking, finance and insurance companies.
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