NEW DELHI: Future Retail Limited (FRL), which operates India's popular retail chains, including Big Bazaar, on Friday informed the Supreme Court that it is barely hanging by a thread. Future informed the court that Amazon has destroyed them. The top court was hearing Amazon's application seeking directions to restrain Future Retail from alienating its retail assets till the arbitration proceedings between the US-based E-commerce giant and the Kishore Biyani-owned group at Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) are completed.
“Our bank accounts are frozen and I can’t even pay rent. Due to the second wave of covid infection and other associated issues, the retail sector has taken a solid knock. Amazon wanted to destroy us, they have destroyed us. If reliance doesn’t extend our scheme after three months then what will we do? We are on oxygen now. We have only 374 stores and over 800 have shut down due to non-payment of rent, ”senior advocate Harish Salve appearing for Future retail submitted before the court.
He further added that it had not transferred its stores on its own accord but was done on the insistence of the landlords who hadn’t received their rent and Amazon has destroyed a Rs 26,000 crore company for Rs 1,400 crores.
“As far as the resumption of arbitration is considered, we both want that. There is a sudden handover of assets which should not be done. The assets have to remain in FRL. We pray for restraining from any alienation of assets and should remain with FRL should not be magically switched to any party. The record shows us that in their annual accounts for 2021, in all their annual returns they say they have enough to pay their rentals. There is not a piece of slightly compelling evidence that they are not doing well. I would request this in the interest of justice,” senior advocate Gopal Subramanium appearing for Amazon said.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for Future coupon added that they couldn’t have avoided giving the rents to the landlords.“Landlords are bound to take action if rent has not been paid... are we supposed to resist landlords when lakhs of rupees of rent remain unpaid?" he queried.
"Future Retail's lapsed leases were now in favour of Reliance and it was incomprehensible that over 800 stores could be let go without any effort on their part to save them", senior advocate Aspi Chinoy, arguing for Amazon said.
"If tenants or the landlords are not here before us how can we pass an order injuncting them from taking possession...” - The bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana said.
Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for the lending banks to Future retail, requested the bench to not pass an interim order that could be prejudicial to the interests of the banks.
The court will continue hearing the matter on April 4.
Amazon and Future group are engaged in litigation at multiple legal portals on the issue of FRL's merger deal to the tune of Rs 24713 crore with Reliance Retail Limited (RIL).The SIAC in 2020 restrained Future from selling its assets to RIL.
Meanwhile, a report said that FRL's Chief Executive Officer Sadashiv Nayak has resigned from his post. Kishore Biyani, who holds the position of Executive Chairman, has been re-appointed for a period of three years with effect from April 1, 2022.
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