Amazon-Future #5: SC Refuses to Intervene in Reliance-Future Assets Issue, Says Stick to Hearing ScopeAmazon-Future-Reliance Dispute
In a short hearing on April 4th 2022, Chief Justice N.V. Ramana appeared perturbed by the lawyers appearing for both Amazon and Future Retail in their ongoing dispute. He censured both parties for constantly seeking to expand the case’s scope to their benefit. The Bench, consisting Ramani CJI and Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli, refused to intervene in Amazon’s concerns regarding Future’s alienation of stores to Reliance under the guise of defaulted rent payments.
The dispute over Amazon’s shareholder agreement with Future Retail, which Amazon claims the Future Group violated by contracting with Reliance, is currently playing out across foras. The dispute reached the Supreme Court because Amazon disputed the Delhi High Court’s orders delivered in February 2021, halting the arbitration proceedings between the parties in Singapore. Other proceedings related to the dispute are currently pending before the NCLT and NCLAT.
Chief Justice Ramana emphasised that the scope of the hearings was limited to determining whether arbitration should continue. Both parties submitted memos agreeing to resume arbitration. However, as per the Chief Justice, they continue to raise unrelated concerns to complicate a ‘small, simple issue’.
HC to Decide Issue Of Alienation of Future Stores, SC Will Not Intervene
Appearing for Amazon, Senior Advocate Gopal Subramaniam was at the receiving end of Chief Justice Ramana’s displeasure today. In a previous hearing, Mr. Subramaniam argued that arbitration is meaningless if Reliance continues to acquire Future Retail’s assets—there will be nothing left for Amazon to fight for.
Senior Advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Future Retail, responded stating that Future Retail was not actively transferring property. Rather, it was forced to forgo its stores to Reliance—who acquired the properties from the company’s landlords—as Future could no longer afford to pay rent.
Mr. Subramaniam stated that Future had assured multiple courts since the beginning of this dispute in August 2020 that it would not alienate any assets until the matter was resolved. Further, it had made no mention of its financial hardships at any point in the proceedings until now.
Mr. Salve pointed out that Mr. Subramaniam had spent the past two hearings arguing the same point before the Delhi High Court. An irked Chief Justice Ramana agreed, stating that the SC could not interfere while the High Court was hearing the matter. Mr. Subramaniam argued that the HC was prioritising other issues in the hearing, refusing to hear the problem of Future alienating property.
Mr. Salve noted that Justice Hari Shankar, presiding over the case at the Delhi High Court, had expressed a need to ‘chart a course’ in this complex and meandering case. He was merely beginning with other issues and was not opposed to hearing the problem of Reliance’s acquisition of Future’s stores later.
Mr. Subramaniam requested the Bench to direct the Delhi HC to hear the alienation issue first. Mr. Salve requested the Bench not to do so, assuring the Court that he would support Mr. Subramaniam’s requests of prioritising the problem at the HC.
The Supreme Court will hear the matter on April 6th, 2022.