Kishore Biyani and his company Future Retail on Monday got relief from the division bench of the Delhi High Court which stayed the last week’s order of its single-judge bench holding them guilty for going ahead with the `24,713-crore deal with Reliance Retail. This is the second time that the division bench has stayed the order of its single judge with regard to the Future-Amazon dispute.
On March 18, Justice JR Midha had issued show-cause notice to Biyani and other directors of the Future Group asking why they should not be sent to prison, as sought by Amazon, which is opposing the deal and had filed the petition before the court. He had also directed the Future Group to approach regulatory authorities to recall all approvals granted to the Future-Reliance Retail deal and to deposit 20 lakh as cost for violating the Singapore’s Emergency Arbitrator’s interim stay order of October 25, 2020. The judge had also asked for attaching the assets of Biyani and other directors and asked them to appear before it on April 28.
The division bench, which comprised justice DN Patel and justice Jasmeet Singh, has now stayed all these directions till April 30, which is the next date of hearing.
Terming the single judge’s order as “curious”, senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for the Future Group, sought a stay on it stating, that since the SC has allowed the National Company Law Tribunal proceedings to go on, justice Midha could not have passed any orders directing the Future Group to write to statutory authorities to recall the approvals already granted and bring the NCLT proceedings to a halt. He said that justice Midha had travelled beyond his scope and passed mandatory directions against Future and its promoters.
Senior advocate Iqbal Chagla, also appearing for the Future group, argued that the single-judge order was against “propriety as it was passed in disregard of the SC directions”.
However, senior counsel Gopal Subramaniam, on behalf of Amazon, opposed any grant of stay, arguing that whatever order has been passed by the single judge was anyway subject to the SC order.
Earlier on February 8, the division bench had stayed the single judge’s February 2 order which had restrained Future Group from seeking clearance for the deal with Reliance Retail from the regulatory authorities. The division bench had then allowed Future Group to go ahead with seeking clearances. Subsequently, Amazon had appealed against the division bench’s order before the Supreme Court which on February 22 though allowed the proceedings for seeking clearances to continue before the National Company Law Tribunal’s Mumbai bench, but barred the tribunal from passing a final order till the matter is disposed by it. The SC will next hear the case on April 27.
The fight between Future Group and Amazon has been going on since October 25, 2020, when the Singapore’s Emergency Arbitrator passed an interim order restraining Future Group from going ahead with its deal with Reliance Retail. Amazon, which is seeking the enforcement of the award had approached the court. The single-judge bench had on February 2 ruled that the EA had rightly passed the order and the same is enforceable in the same manner as that of an arbitrator’s order. It had said that it is of a clear view that the EA rightly proceeded against Future Retail and its award was not a nullity.
The Future Group-Amazon fight over the deal is therefore currently going on in the SC, before different benches of the Delhi HC and NCLT, Mumbai bench.