Future Retail legal suit ‘doubtful and not maintainable’, Amazon tells Delhi HC

The Future Group and Amazon have been locked in a battle after Amazon took Future Retail into an emergency arbitration over alleged breach of contract.
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Amazon on Wednesday told the Delhi High Court that the emergency arbitration award against Kishore Biyani-led Future Retail Ltd (FRL) by a Singapore arbitrator was a valid order and the e-commerce major has the right to inform statutory bodies about it.

The submission was made by Amazon before Justice Mukta Gupta during the hearing of FRL's plea alleging that the e-commerce major was interfering in its Rs 24,713 crore deal with Reliance Retail on the basis of an interim order by Singapore arbitrator, SIAC.

Senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, appearing for Amazon, said the suit filed by FRL was "doubtful" and not maintainable.

Continuing his arguments from where he had left off on Tuesday, Subramanium said FRL participated in the proceedings before the emergency arbitrator (EA) and also urged it not to pass an interim order till an arbitrator is appointed on behalf of the entire Future Group.

Therefore, it cannot now say that the EA's interim decision was invalid and not binding on it, he said.

The senior lawyer said that FRL ought to have approached the courts here when the notice about the emergency arbitration was received by it in early October this year, but it chose to wait till now.

The Future Group and Amazon have been locked in a battle after the US-based company took FRL into an emergency arbitration over alleged breach of contract.

The Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) on October 25 passed an interim order in favour of Amazon barring FRL from taking any step to dispose of or encumber its assets or issuing any securities to secure any funding from a restricted party.

Subsequently, Amazon wrote to market regulator SEBI, stock exchanges and Competition Commission of India (CCI), urging them to take into consideration the Singapore arbitrator's interim decision as it is a binding order, FRL told the high court.

FRL has urged the high court to restrain the US-based e-commerce major from writing to SEBI, CCI and other regulators about SIAC's order, saying it amounts to interfering with the agreement with Reliance.

Subramanium concluded arguments on behalf of Amazon and now the court is set to hear the rejoinder of FRL on Thursday.

FRl had on Tuesday told the court that it was not challenging the award by the Emergency Arbitrator (EA), under the SIAC rules, as it was not recognised under Indian laws.

It had contended that the concept of EA was not there in Indian arbitration law and therefore, he only wanted an order from the court restraining Amazon from interfering in its Rs 24,713 crore deal with Reliance Retail and Reliance Retail and Fashion Ltd.

It had said that the letters by Amazon to the regulatory bodies, like the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and CCI as well as stock exchanges telling them that the EA award was binding, would hamper the deal with Reliance and would "sound the death knell" for FRL.

Similar arguments were made on behalf of FCL and its promoters and Reliance, both of whom supported FRL's claims and contentions.

In August this year, Future had reached an agreement to sell its retail, wholesale, logistics and warehousing units to Reliance.

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

On Tuesday, Amazon told the court that it and FCL have appointed their respective arbitrators

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