The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed Future Retail to move the Delhi High Court to seek permission for continuation of proceedings before the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) regarding the sanction for its Rs 27,513-crore deal with Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices A S Bopanna and Hima Kohli said: “We grant liberty to FRL to approach the High Court by filing an application seeking continuation of the NCLT proceedings beyond the 8th Stage (Meeting of Shareholders and creditors).”
It asked the single judge of the high court to consider all the contentions raised by both the parties in this regard and pass appropriate order as to continuation of the NCLT proceedings beyond the stage mentioned at serial no 8 and other regulatory approvals expeditiously, uninfluenced by any observations made by the top court.
There 15 stages for the final approval of the scheme.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing Future Retail, argued that the proceedings before the NCLT have reached the stage listed at serial no 8 (meeting of the shareholders and creditors).
He submitted that his client is incurring expenditure everyday and there is an imminent threat of insolvency and any delay in the proceedings before the NCLT will have serious ramifications and virtually render the agreement between FRL-Reliance group redundant.
He said the livelihood of 22,000 employees of FRL are also at stake and the continuation of the NCLT proceedings will not adversely affect Amazon in any manner.
Senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, appearing for Amazon, submitted that up till now FRL has conducted the NCLT proceedings in contravention of the order of the Emergency Arbitrator as well as the enforcement order passed by the single judge of the Delhi High Court.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing on behalf of Future Coupons Pvt Ltd, submitted that the Competition Commission of India has revoked the initial Amazon-AFCPL share purchase, which effectively nullifies the arbitration. He added these facts have bearing on the continuation of the proceedings which needs to form a part of consideration and he is willing to argue on the aforesaid consideration before the high court in remand.
Senior advocate Aspi Chinoy, appearing for Amazon, submitted that FRL and FCPL are not entitled for any interim relief as they have not challenged the initial order of the Emergency Arbitrator, which is binding on them.
Salve stated that it would take six to eight months for completing all the 15 steps set and it is only when the final scheme is sanctioned by the NCLT, that the retail assets of FRL would get alienated. He added that as long as the final order of sanctioning is not passed by the NCLT, Amazon is not prejudiced in any manner.
The top court had reserved the orders on Future’s plea on the issue of whether NCLT proceedings in connection with its deal with Reliance can be permitted to continue and could it be allowed to go ahead with the steps of the scheme.
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