BENGALURU: The Supreme Court’s verdict on upholding the Singapore emergency arbitration order in favour of Amazon may signal an end of legal road for Kishore Biyani’s sinking retail empire, Future Group, with Rs 24,713-crore ( $3.4-billion) deal with Reliance Retail stock.
The SC’s landmark judgement which acknowledged the emergency arbitration orders within the ambit of Arbitration and Conciliation Act , as per the industry and law experts, also paves way for foreign institutional investors as well as the conglomerates to actively consider business deals/ investments in Indian firms with the lesser regulatory burden. In October last year, Amazon succeeded in securing an injunction on Future Retail Limited (FRLS) sale to Reliance, which the e-tailer said violates its first right of refusal.
Future Group is most likely to appeal for the review of the SC verdict, which according to experts, will not hold much weight, and therefore, the debt-ridden retail firm will have to await the final judgement from the tribunal or settle the dispute with Amazon.
Amazon, on the other hand, has welcomed the SC judgement which also puts it in a stronger position to stop its rival Reliance from acquiring the retail, warehousing and logistics assets of the Future Group and consolidate in the growing $1 trillion industry.
“We welcome the verdict of the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India upholding the Emergency Arbitrator’s award. We hope that this will hasten a resolution of this dispute with Future Group,” an Amazon spokesperson told this publication in a statement.
Lomesh Kiran Nidumuri, Partner at Indus Law, said that SC verdict has also brought much-needed clarity on the implementation of emergency arbitrator orders in India. “Future Group’s contention was that the Emergency orders are not enforceable in India, and that has been set aside. On the legal prospects, Future Group cannot challenge the SC verdict altogether, but they can file for a review, and there as well, the retail company has a limited scope of succeeding.
At the Singapore tribunal, Future Group may ask for a modification of the EA order and the final award again will be enforceable in India,” Nidumuri added. Neerav Merchant, Partner, Majmudar & Partners, said that on account of the judgement the deal is stalled for some more time for sure. “However, Future Group can approach the (SIAC, Singapore) arbitral tribunal and try to vacate the emergency arbitrator award rather than struggling further in India.
Limited legal options for Future Group, say experts
“I understand that the SC has only ruled on validation of Emergency Arbitrator’s authority to restrain Future Group, therefore, Future Group can challenge the injunctive restrictions before the Delhi High court,” said Neerav Merchant, Partner, Majmudar & Partners