Supreme Court stands in favor of Amazon in dispute with Future-Reliance deal

The Supreme Court on Friday ruled in the favor of the e-commerce giant in its dispute with Future Retail. It affirmed that the emergency arbitrator award is enforceable in Indian law.

A bench headed by justice R.F. Nariman and B.R gavai held that the emergency award passed under the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) rules can be enforced in India under Arbitration and Conciliation Act.

The Supreme Court said, “Emergency arbitrator’s award holds good under section 17(1) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act and single judge’s order for such award cannot be appealed under Section 17(2)”.

The Supreme Court had reserved its decision on Amazon’s petitions challenging the Rs 24,713 crore merger of Future Retail Ltd (FRL) and Reliance Retail on July,29.

The deal has been the subject of a protracted legal battle between Amazon.com NV Investment Holdings LLC and FRL.

Amazon argued that Singapore’s Emergency Arbitrator (EA) award, which barred FRL from proceeding with the merger, was valid and enforceable. Amazon had filed an appeal with the Supreme Court, challenging the Delhi High Court’s division bench order that cleared the way for the Reliance-FRL merger.

FRL’s senior advocate, Harish Salve, argued that there was no concept of EA under Indian law on arbitration and conciliation and that there was no arbitration agreement to that effect. Salve emphasized that there was no provision in Indian law for EA.

While a Division Bench had stayed the single-judge direction to FRL and various statutory authorities to maintain the status quo on the deal on February 8.

The decision is a setback for Future, the country’s second-largest retailer with over 1,700 locations, which agreed last year to sell its retail businesses to market leader Reliance.

However, e-commerce behemoth Amazon, which had its sights set on eventually owning a portion of the retail assets itself, claimed that a 2019 deal it had with a unit of Future contained clauses prohibiting Future Retail from selling them to anyone on a “restricted persons” list, which included Reliance.

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