Ready for Arbitration, Future, Amazon SC announces

Amazon and the Future group agreed prima facie in the Supreme Court on Wednesday to resume proceedings before an arbitral tribunal in a dispute over Future’s 24,500-crore deal with Reliance.

Earlier this week, the parties informed the Supreme Court that talks for an amicable settlement of the dispute had not progressed.

Appearing before a chamber chaired by the Chief Justice of India NV Ramana on Wednesday, Amazon’s lead counsel Gopal Subramaniam said his client would have “no difficulty” if the arbitral tribunal resumed its proceedings. A Division Bench of the Delhi High Court stayed the arbitration proceedings in January.

Both Amazon and Lead Counsel Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi of the Future group companies agreed that they could even request the arbitral tribunal to hear and rule as a matter of priority a pending request under Section 32 of the Arbitration Act to terminate the arbitration process in process Amazon future dispute.

“This whole dispute began because our Section 32 request for a termination of the arbitration was not included at the material time in January. If the tribunal can accept our application now in April, then all these procedures can come to an end,” said Mr. Rohatgi.

“The sooner we apply, the better,” Mr Subramaniam added.

However, Mr. Subramaniam alerted the court to the possibility that the arbitral tribunal might decide not to terminate the arbitration after all. In that case, the arbitral tribunal should be asked to order the expeditious conclusion of the arbitration, he suggested.

Meanwhile, he is asking the Supreme Court to issue an injunction protecting Future’s retail assets from “disappearing” until the dispute is finally resolved.

Amazon on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to step in and ensure future retail assets are not acquired by Reliance.

Mr Subramaniam stated that attempts were made to “knock over the apple cart” and “things were done”.

“Things will be done… If without a doubt I would lose the plan [the deal] go through and the assets go through the system to Reliance. I have no problem at all. But if I succeed, the fortune should be there. I just want a retail asset protection order,” pleaded Mr Subramaniam.

Mr Salve said Amazon has already approached the Delhi High Court on the matter. “It’s listed on Tuesday. That [High Court] Here he should be pushing for that relief,” Mr. Salve added.

Since the parties have no objection to the retrial before the arbitral tribunal, the Bench suggested to Mr. Subramaniam that Amazon should seek injunctive relief there. But Mr Subramaniam said the tribunal had issued restraining orders twice in the past.

“To date there has been no compliance. Then what’s the point of going to the tribunal and getting another restraining order? As we speak today, while it’s all pending, people are actually bustling with the assets… Then what’s the point of me going to court with another request for a restraining order?” Mr. Subramaniam asked.

He described the situation as “extraordinary”. “How do I deal with a situation where assets disappear in violation of a restraining order and I am returning to court for another restraining order? I have two orders. One on October 25, 2020 and another, a mandatory injunction, on October 21, 2021. At least protect whatever can be protected until the end of the arbitration…” Mr. Subramaniam urged the court.

The Bench listed the case next on April 1, prompting prospective companies to file a response to Amazon’s motion seeking an order to retrial the arbitral tribunal and an injunction to protect assets.

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