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legal | IST

Irked by voluminous records, Supreme Court defers Amazon-Future group case hearing

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Amazon has moved the Supreme Court against a Delhi High Court order directing the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to decide within two weeks on a PIL filed by the Confederation of All India Traders Association’s (CAIT) in connection with the deal with Future Coupons in 2019.

Irked by bulky documents filed by parties in a batch of petitions arising out of the Amazon Future Retail case, the Supreme Court on Tuesday asked whether the purpose was just to drag on or harass the judges and sought a common small compilation of documents.
A bench comprising Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justice A S Bopanna and Hima Kohli asked the counsel for parties to file small volume of documents so that the matter can be disposed of, and fixed the case for hearing on December 8.
Earlier, Amazon moved the Supreme Court on Tuesday against a Delhi High Court order directing the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to decide within two weeks on a PIL filed by the Confederation of All India Traders Association’s (CAIT).
The high court had issued the order on November 16 regarding CAIT’s plea to CCI that seeks to revoke the competition regulator’s approval to the Amazon-Future Coupons deal.
The court noted, “This is a separate issue, and can be challenged separately. It’s not a part of this Amazon-Future dispute.”
Traders' body CAIT had on November 10 said it has urged the CCI to revoke the approval granted to Amazon two years ago for its deal with Future Coupons, alleging that the e-commerce major had made false statements for getting the regulatory nod.
The development came following Future Retail Limited’s (FRL) independent directors writing to the CCI Chairman on the matter.
In a regulatory filing, Future Retail said it has received a communication from CCI that it has decided to hear Amazon and Future Coupons Private Limited (FCPL) on January 4, 2022 in connection with the approval given by the regulator to their deal.
In its PIL, CAIT has alleged that CCI is seized of the matter (since March 2021) concerning false and misrepresentations by Amazon while taking approval for Amazon’s investment in FCPL in 2019.
CCI had also issued a show-cause notice on June 4, 2021 to Amazon but 235+ days are over and the regulator is sitting on the matter without taking any decision, it said. It added that CCI, as a regulator, cannot delay deciding a matter which has ramifications on public interest. It had requested that the CCI should be asked to adjudicate and decide this matter within the next few weeks.
The independent directors of FRL have also requested CCI to stop Amazon from "perpetuating its evil non-desirable designs" to make FRL bankrupt and jeopardise Rs 30,000 crore of debt extended by public sector banks to Future group.
In November 2019, CCI had given its approval for Amazon to acquire a 49 percent stake in FCPL and FCPL is a shareholder in Future Retail Ltd.
According to the letter, Amazon had "not disclosed its strategic interest over FRL" while getting approval from the CCI to prevent it from referring the transaction to other governmental agencies that "would have responded that the transaction is illegal". "Amazon has concealed facts, made misrepresentations and false representations to the Commission," the letter alleged.
Meanwhile, the separate Amazon and Future dispute that the Supreme Court referred to is that the two companies have been engaged in a legal tussle since October 2020 with Amazon approaching the Singapore International Arbitration Centre objecting to a deal between Future Retail and Reliance Retail in 2019.
Amazon is trying to block the sale of Future Group's retail, wholesale, and logistics business to Reliance Industries Ltd for Rs 24,713 crore for allegedly breaking contracts. The e-commerce giant argues that the 2019 deal it had with a Future unit contained clauses prohibiting the group from selling its retail assets to anyone on a "restricted persons" list that included Reliance.
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(With PTI inputs)