Amazon-Future Hearing #1: Parties Agree to Try an Out-of-Court Settlement

Amazon-Future-Reliance Dispute

The complex, long drawn conflict between three of the largest players in the Indian retail market—Amazon, Future Group, and Reliance—appears to have reached a new stage today. The outcome of this case will eventually decide who dominates the Indian retail market for fashion, lifestyle, and groceries.

A Bench composed of Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, and Justices A.S Bopanna and Hima Kohli, has granted 10 days for the three companies to enter into a dialogue and attempt to resolve the conflict outside of Court. The hearings before the Delhi High Court and National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) will continue in this period. This opportunity, sought primarily by Amazon, comes after the Competition Commission of India (CCI) revoked the shareholder agreement between Amazon and Future Coupons. It raises questions about whether Amazon has the right to interfere in the sale between Future and Reliance in the first place.

The present appeal is regarding the continuation of arbitration proceedings before the Singapore International Arbitration Centre. In December 2021, Future approached the Delhi High Court to stay the arbitration proceedings underway in Singapore against the sale of Future Group to Reliance. On the 5th of January, 2022, a two-judge Bench of the Delhi HC stayed the arbitration proceedings. They relied on CCI’s revocation of the agreement between Amazon and Future Coupons to conclude that the dispute arising from it was invalid. Amazon appealed against the decision in the SC.

In today’s hearing, Senior Advocate Gopal Subramaniam appearing for Amazon suggested that the parties hold a dialogue outside of Court to try and resolve the matter. Frustration around the multiplicity of cases surrounding the Future-Reliance sale appears to grip both parties. Exclaiming that the case has become a ‘tangled web’, Senior Advocate Harish Salve appearing for Future, agreed to advise the parties to attempt an out-of-Court settlement. CJI Ramana stated that it is in the ‘interest of business’ to resolve the conflict at the earliest.

This attempt at non-adversarial resolution is a first since the Amazon-Future-Reliance dispute began brewing in 2019. The Court has adjourned the matter to March 15th, giving time for parties to discuss possible solutions.