Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to the Competition Commission of India (CCI) and Future Group on a plea filed by an e-commerce giant challenging a National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) order of June 13. The Appellate Tribunal had upheld the CCI’s decision to suspend approval for the investment deal between the e-commerce major and a Future group firm (Future Coupons) dating back to 2019.
A Supreme Court Bench comprising Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice M M Sundresh heard the matter on Monday and issued notice to CCI and other parties (Future Coupons 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, sources said.
NCLAT had, on June 13 this year, upheld the CCI order (December 2021) and directed the e-commerce giant to deposit ₹ 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.
It maybe recalled that the competition watchdog CCI had in December 2021 kept its earlier approval for the investment deal between Amazon and Future Coupons, a Future Group firm, in “abeyance” after it found that Amazon did not make full and necessary disclosure about its strategic interest in its deal with Future group’s Future Coupons Pvt Ltd (FCPL). Keeping its earlier approval in abeyance meant that the CCI approval was suspended but not quashed. Amazon had appealed against the CCI order before NCLAT.
CCI had also imposed a ₹ 200 crore penalty on Amazon for allegedly misrepresenting and suppressing information while seeking regulatory approval in 2019 to buy a stake in Future Coupons. The competition watchdog, while imposing a penalty, 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 to the 2019 deal with Amazon. The plea was backed by the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT).