The Supreme Court on Friday held that Singapore's Emergency Arbitrator (EA) award is enforceable in a plea by e-commerce giant Amazon against the Rs 24,731 crore merger deal of Future Retail Ltd (FRL) with Reliance Retail.
A Bench of Justices RF Nariman and BR Gavai had reserved its judgement on July 29 after hearing a battery of lawyers including senior advocates Harish Salve and Gopal Subramanium, appearing for FRL and Amazon respectively.
The verdict was keenly awaited as it was dealing with the legality and enforceability of an award by an Emergency Arbitrator (EA) of the foreign country here in view of the fact that the term EA is not used in the Indian Arbitration and Conciliation Act. Amazon.com NV Investment Holdings LLC and FRL are embroiled in a bitter legal fight over the deal and the US-based firm has sought in the apex court that the EA award was valid and enforceable.
A complete timeline of the Amazon-Future Retail tussle
August 2019: Amazon enters into an agreement with Future Coupons, a Future Group promoter entity, to buy 49% stake for Rs 1,500 crore. Future Coupons holds a 7.3% stake in Future Retail, effectively giving Amazon an indirect stake of 3.58% in Future Retail as a result of the deal with Future Coupons.
December 2019: Future Coupons receives Rs 1,500 crore from Amazon
August 29: Future Retail board approves Reliance Retail deal. Reliance Retail to buy Future Group's retail, wholesale, and logistics business by way of a slump sale for Rs 24,713 crore
October 9: Amazon approaches Singapore International Arbitration Centre objecting to Future-Reliance Retail deal
October 25: Singapore Emergency Arbitrator bars Future Retail-Reliance Group deal in an interim award
November 7: Future Retail moves Delhi HC against Amazon alleging interference
November 20: Deal gets the CCI nod
December 21: Single-judge bench of Delhi HC refuses to stay deal, upholds FRL August 29 board resolution, but allows Amazon to write to regulators. Also, it upholds Future Retail's claim of torturous interference by Amazon
January 2021: SIAC constitutes a 3-member panel to pass the final verdict. It will take 6-9 months
January 13: Delhi High Court's division bench issues notice to Future Retail on Amazon's plea against December 21'2019 order which allowed regulators to decide
January 20: SEBI gives nod to Future Retail-Reliance Group deal
February 2: Single-judge bench of Delhi High Court orders status quo on Future Retail-Reliance Group deal
February 3: Future Retail contests status quo order before 2-judge bench in Delhi HC
February 8: Two-judge bench lifts single bench's status quo order on FRL-Reliance retail deal
February 11: Amazon moves SC challenging lifting of "status quo" orders by a division bench of Delhi High Court
February 12: NCLT hears and reserves order on Future Group plea on calling for a shareholder meeting to approve deal with Reliance
February 22: Supreme Court allows Future Retail to proceed with a plea for a nod before NCLT, but restrains NCLT from finalizing orders sanctioning Future Retail Scheme. The apex court issues notice to FRL on Amazon plea seeking status quo
March 18: Delhi HC restrains FRL-Reliance Retail deal. The court says FRL, Kishore Biyani deliberately and wilfully disobeyed the order, liable to face action under the code of civil procedure. It directs assets of Kishore Biyani, Future Promoter Directors to be attached. Asks FRL, FCPL to approach all regulators to recall grant of deal approval
March 18: SC says it will hear Amazon plea in the last week of April
March 20: Future Group challenges order directing stay on the deal, attachment of assets of Kishore Biyani, Future Promoter Directors.
March 22: Delhi HC stays single-judge Bench order granting status quo, stays order that directed attachment of Biyani assets
April 17: Future Retail board approves resolution plan to restructure secured financial debt under RBI's August 6, 2020, circular
May 19: Reliance Retail Ventures moves NCLT, seeks nod to call for a shareholder meeting
July 12-17: SIAC final hearing on Amazon plea against the deal. Judgment expected after a month
June 22: NCLT reserves order on Reliance Retail plea to call a shareholder meeting
July 20: SC resumes hearing of Amazon plea seeking a stay on FRL-Rel retail deal
July 29: SC reserves judgment in the Amazon plea seeking to stay the sale of Future Retail.
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First Published: IST