The Supreme Court on Monday will hear the crucial Amazon plea filed against the June 13 National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) order, which upheld the Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) decision to suspend approval for the investment deal between the e-commerce major and a Future group firm, Future Coupons Pvt Ltd (FCPL) dating back to 2019.
Sources close to the development said the matter has been listed before a Bench of Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Bela M Trivedi. Economy watchers said that this case is significant as its outcome will determine the winner in the ongoing fight for control of the organised Indian retail market.
Supreme Court’s action, Amazon’s reaction
It may be recalled that the Apex Court on September 5 issued notices to the CCI and Future Group on a plea filed by Amazon against the NCLAT’s June 13 order.
A Supreme Court Bench comprising Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice MM Sundresh heard the matter and issued notice to CCI and other parties (FCPL and Confederation of All India Traders). Further, the Bench directed all parties to file short notes of submissions and thereafter listed the matter on September 19.
On June 13, NCLAT upheld the CCI order (December 2021) and directed the e-commerce giant to deposit a ₹200 crore penalty (imposed by CCI) within 45 days.
In its appeal before the Apex Court, Amazon contended that it had made all efforts to have a clear stance on its investment in Future Coupons, and that NCLAT had not taken cognizance of it before passing the order.
CCI’s abeyance move
The competition watchdog CCI had in December 2021 kept its earlier approval for the investment deal in “abeyance” after it found that Amazon did not make full and necessary disclosure about its strategic interest in FCPL.
This meant that the CCI approval was suspended but not quashed. While imposing a penalty, CCI held that there was a non-disclosure of Amazon’s intention and interest in Future Group’s retail business under its public-listed company Future Retail Ltd (FRL).
In 2019, Amazon had invested ₹1,400 crore in Future Coupons for a 49 per cent stake. This stake buy had opened the doors for the American e-commerce giant to a 7.3 per cent stake in Future Retail.
In 2021, some directors of the Future Group companies filed a plea before the CCI seeking a recall of its approval of the 2019 deal with Amazon. The plea was backed by the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT).