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Future case: Supreme Court issues notice on Amazon impleadment plea, next hearing on Nov 23

Justice Hima Kohli states to both the parties that she and her family members has shares in Reliance, if anyone has objection with regard to this, she is ready to recuse from this case.

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A three-judges Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana, Justice A.S. Bopanna and Justice Hima Kohli listed the matter for November 23 after hearing submissions made on behalf of Amazon and of Future Coupons on a plea filed by Future Coupons, against a Delhi High Court order staying the attachment of properties of Future Group companies and Kishore Biyani in relation to the Future-Reliance deal. The Apex Court has issued notice on the Intervention/Impleadment application filed by Amazon. 

Ranjit Singh, Senior Advocate for Amazon.Com NV Investment Holdings LLC, submitted that arbitral tribunal had upheld arbitral award in their favour, not only that Future Group application filed before Singapore International Arbitration Centre for vacating Emergency Award was dismissed by Singapore International Arbitration Centre. 

Justice Hima Kohli stated to both the parties that she and her family members had shares in Reliance, if anyone had objection with regard to this, she is ready to recuse from this case.

CJI to counsels of Future and Amazon: “If you have any objection, she will not participate, she will recuse from this case.” 

“No objection, Milord,” said Ranjit, appearing for Amazon. He submitted that Future Group Companies have filed additional documents. 

The Delhi High Court said that we will abate the matter, said Ranjit Singh for Amazon.  

Chief Justice asked him: “What do you want?”

Sr Adv Ranjit Singh submitted that arbitral award has been reinforced, no further steps should be taken my lord, during the pendency of Special Leave Petition. 

The Chief Justice observed that matter was seized by Singapore Arbitration Centre and we have recorded that consent order. 

‘You chose your remedies,’ stated Chief Justice to Amazon. 

Chief Justice asks Senior Counsel of Amazon about the additional documents filed by him. “You have filed same set of papers.”

Chief Justice stated to Future Coupon to read order of the Delhi High Court. “I am not going into peruse the new Special Leave Petition filed by Future Coupon.” 

Sr Adv Ranjit for Amazon contended that expert witnesses to be examined yet in arbitral tribunal. “They (Future Coupons) should not say proceedings before Arbitral Tribunal should stay, since the matter is pending before the apex court.”  

The Chief Justice made observation to the statement: “We never directed the Delhi High Court to adjudicate the matter.” 

On September 9, the Top Court had stayed the proceedings in the dispute between Amazon and Future Retail Limited (FRL) pending before the Delhi High Court for four weeks. A bench led by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and also comprising Justices Surya Kant and A.S. Bopanna ordered stay on the enforcement of Emergency Arbitrator’s order by Delhi High Court. Also, the apex court ordered the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), the Competition Commission of India (CCI), and the Securities and Exchange Board of the India (SEBI), not to pass any final order in relation to the dispute for four weeks.

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On July 29, 2021, the Supreme Court reserved its judgment on the petition filed by Amazon against the Division Bench of Delhi High Court order that had stayed the order of the single judge, directing a status quo on the Future-Reliance deal.

Amazon had moved the top court against the Delhi High Court’s division bench order which paved the way for the Reliance-FRL deal. Amazon’s plea stated, “The group had earlier unequivocally stated that they will continue to take steps to complete the impugned transaction. The greater the progress made towards the completion of the impugned transaction, the harder it will be to unravel it. Over time, the interests of additional third parties may also become entwined with the impugned transaction and be subsequently compromised. Further, irreparable harm will be caused to the petitioner.”

Senior Advocate Gopal Subramanium appearing for Amazon submitted, “the Biyanis of Future Group had negotiated with it to enter into certain agreements and are bound by Singapore’s Emergency Arbitrator award restraining FRL from going ahead with its merger deal with Reliance Retail. It reiterated that EA’s Award was enforceable.

Whereas, Senior Advocate Harish Salve appearing for FRL submitted, “There was no provision for EA under the Indian Law” and “it cannot be done by the process of construction” while referring to the single judge order of the Delhi High Court which had held the award of the EA to be valid.

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A division bench of the High Court presided by Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh while passing the order observed that since Future Retail Limited (FRL) is not a party to Arbitration Agreement, prima facie, group of companies doctrine can’t be invoked. The High Court further noted that in preliminary findings there was no reason to seek a status quo order from a single judge. “Statutory authorities like SEBI cannot be restrained from proceeding in accordance with law,” the bench said. The division bench had also stated that the observations made by it are only prima facie and the single judge shall not be influenced by it while passing its order.

The order was passed while the court was hearing an appeal filed by Future against an order of the single judge order directing it to maintain status quo on its Rs 24,713-crore deal with Reliance that had been earlier objected by Amazon. The appeal filed before the Supreme Court states that the High Court “failed to appreciate that orders made under the Act [Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996] are appealable only if there exists a provision under the Act specifically providing for a right to appeal. 

Since the single bench order was passed under Section 17(2) of the act, and there being no provision for appeal under the said section, no appeal would lie against the order.

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