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Amazon moves Supreme Court; seeks damages from Future group, its promoters

Amazon NV Investment Holding LLC on Thursday moved the Supreme Court for allowing arbitration proceedings with the Future Group to continue before the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC).

Gopal Subramanium, senior counsel, representing Amazon, informed the top court that Future Group had expressed unhappiness at the fact that the tribunal has been counting with arbitration proceedings.

Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud told the counsel of Future Group that, “You cannot keep stultifying the proceedings before the arbitral tribunal and this is just a ploy to delay the proceedings…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 arbitration proceedings.

“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,” the CJI said.

The matter will be next heard on 25 November. The chief justice has directed the parties to be present before the SIAC on 28 November.

On 28 June, SIAC had rejected a Future Group plea seeking termination of arbitration proceedings over the US giant’s investment in Future Coupons.

In its order, the SIAC held that it would continue with the arbitration proceedings that began in October 2020 after Future Group proposed to sell its retail, wholesale and logistics assets to Reliance industries for ₹24, 713 crores.

Last month, Future Group moved the Delhi High Court against the SIAC ruling.

Future Group and Amazon have been locked in a bitter battle for over a year following a decision by the Indian retailer to sell its Big Bazaar business to Reliance Retail, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries.

The deal was opposed by Amazon.com NV Investment Holdings LLC on grounds that its investment of ₹1,400 crore in Future Coupons, which is one of promoters of Future Retail, does not allow Future to sell retail assets to certain companies, including Reliance. At stake was whether Amazon can become a bigger force in a $900 billion retail market, with 1.3 billion consumers, than Reliance.

The US e-commerce giant, however, is now no longer seeking performance of contract but wants monetary compensation pertaining to its ₹1,400 crore investment in Future Coupons.

Amazon in its petition before the top court has said that it was constrained to file the plea given the unusual circumstances of the case, with the arbitral tribunal having fixed dates for cross examination of expert witnesses as far back as July, and Future group repeatedly seeking adjournment of 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. LiveMint

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