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AMAZON v. FUTURE RETAIL “Big retail stores of the West and East…should not be allowed to invest in India” Salve

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Tanvi Sinha

The Delhi High Court continued to hear the case for Amazon vs Future regarding the deal that Future had with Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance, which is opposed by Amazon that happens to have a 49% stake in the company.

During the hearing, Senior lawyer, Harish Salve for Future stated that Amazon was a global online retailer that wanted to enter India and while the brand opened up the economy to FDI, sectors such as multi-brand retail are still closed.

Salve used this to say that big retail stores form the West and East provide competition that Indian shops could not match, and thus should not be allowed to invest in India. 

Regarding the Emergency award (EA) that was granted to the two by the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC), that was said to be enforceable in India via Justice Midha’s order, Salve stated that it could not be applicable in the country. 

Salve spoke of Justice Gupta who Salve stated “heard the matter for days” rejected the EA order completely, and that Justice Midha formed a prima facie view contrary to the prima facie view. 

Salve further stated that not-staying the EA order by SIAC would be disastrous for the future as they would have to deal with 400 shareholders and close 1500 shops and would cause disaster also to their 25 thousand employees.

Senior Advocate Gopal Subramaniam appearing for Amazon stated that the EA order was preserved by the Single judge, and the decision should be honoured. 

He stated that an Emergency Arbitrator Award had to be binding on both parties, and it is to be shown respect unless it is set aside. 

Reading the rules of the SIAC, he stated that Part I, stating that an Emergency Arbitrator was entitled to pass an order under section 17 applied to the case, and the same arbitrator stated that Indian laws had no provision barring the award.

The issue started last year when a corporate battle between Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Reliance’s Mukesh Ambani unfolded when Amazon opposed the Future group’s pact with Ambani’s RIL that was signed in August 2020.

Amazon accused Future of not honouring the agreement where they barred a list of 5-6 companies (including Reliance) from contracting with them, unless they got the American corporate giant’s consent first. 

While SEBI and Competition Commission of India cleared the deal, SIAC held it faulty and imposed an EA. Since the deal last year, Amazon has been trying to come back in talks with the future, which has rejected the offer.