Delhi high court to rule on Future Group’s plea today

Industry:    

The Delhi high court will rule on Tuesday on the Future Group’s petition seeking to quash the arbitration proceedings initiated by Amazon in Singapore. In its petition filed on Monday, Future Coupons asked the high court to quash the proceedings on the grounds that the Indian competition watchdog has already suspended the Amazon-Future deal.

If the Delhi high court rules in favour of Future group, Amazon could be left with no locus standi, and the deal between Reliance Industries Ltd and Future Retail Ltd could go ahead. If the order goes against it, Amazon can file a review petition or approach the Supreme Court.

Ramesh Vaidyanathan, managing partner, Advaya Legal, said it is unlikely that the Delhi high court would take any major decision pending the Competition Commission of India proceedings. “We do not expect the high court to give a complete reverse decision on the Future-Amazon deal or on the arbitration proceedings. The high court in all probability may hold its hands in passing a final order and let the concerned adjudicating authority (CCI) deal with these issues first,” said Vaidyanathan.

Mukul Rohatgi, senior counsel representing Future Coupons, told the Delhi high court that as per law, an arbitrator must terminate the proceeding if it has become unnecessary, adding that the company had approached the tribunal for termination of proceedings after the anti-trust watchdog’s December order. Rohatgi argued that the international arbitral tribunal was acting in a “perverse” manner and that it has yet not passed any order in the matter.

Senior counsel Harish Salve, on behalf of Future Retail, said the company had been unnecessarily dragged in the matter even as it faces the pressure of bankruptcy. He asked the court to direct the tribunal to take up the termination application.

Gopal Subramanium, senior advocate for Amazon, while responding to the arguments, said if there is any tangible ground to terminate, then the arbitration tribunal will terminate the proceedings.

Currently, a dispute between Future Group and Amazon is underway at the Singapore arbitration panel, but both sides have been fighting parallel cases in various courts to enforce or overrule certain decisions taken by the arbitrator.

On 18 December, CCI suspended its approval of Amazon’s stake purchase in Future Coupons, imposed a penalty of ₹200 crore for allegedly making “false and incorrect statements” while seeking approval for the deal, and asked the multinational retailer to furnish additional documents.

CCI said Amazon had concealed its strategic interest over Future Retail Ltd and thereby prevented the commission from examining the deal in its entirety. Amazon has to submit fresh additional documents by 17 February to enable CCI to examine the deal afresh.

The deal is crucial for the Kishore Biyani-led company.

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