Amazon vs Future: SC stay on proceedings at Delhi HC; hearing on May 4

Amazon vs Future: SC stay on proceedings at Delhi HC; hearing on May 4

A day after lenders to Future Retail approved a debt recast plan extending repayment of its loans by up to two years, the Supreme Court (SC) on Monday stayed all proceedings pending before the Delhi High Court (HC) in the Amazon versus Future case.

The matter will be next heard on May 4 in the SC, by when the two sides have been asked to complete their pleadings.

"Further proceedings before a single judge and division Bench stayed. Matter to be heard on May 4. All pleadings to be completed by then," the SC Bench, comprising Justices R F Nariman, B R Gavai, and Hrishikesh Roy, said in its ruling.

The Bench had passed the order in a special leave petition filed by Amazon. The e-commerce major had moved the apex court last week challenging an order dated March 22 passed by a division Bench of the Delhi HC. The division Bench order had stayed a single-judge directive, which had upheld the emergency award passed by a Singapore Tribunal in October halting the Reliance-Future deal signed last year.

"There will be status quo on both sides. Both parties (Amazon and Future) will not be able to pursue their legal matters in the Delhi HC as the SC has intervened and said it will now the hear the case. The caveat here is that both sides have to file their pleadings in time for the SC to give its final order in the matter before it breaks for vacation in the second week of May," said senior SC advocate H P Ranina.

The stay given by the SC comes as Reliance extends closure of the deal with Future by six months, in a breather to the latter, whose debt woes had forced it to consider sale of its retail, logistics, and wholesale assets for nearly Rs 25,000 crore in August last year.

Amazon had contended in court that the deal with Reliance by Future was in breach of a mutual agreement between the e-commerce major and the latter.

Amazon had bought 49 per cent in one of Future’s unlisted firms last year, with the right to buy into the listed flagship Future Retail after a few years. But Future Group ran into a cash crunch when India went into lockdown in March last year to rein in the spread of Covid-19.

The deal, which was to close on March 31 this year, has since been held up, forcing Future Group to redraw its plans, including re-energising its joint ventures (JVs) and bringing focus back on its retail and manufacturing operations.

Future Group kicked off a discount sale this month at Big Bazaar stores and promised deliveries within two hours in key cities.

The JVs, including those with dairy major Fonterra, expanded its range to 20 products from eight earlier.