The Kishore Biyani firm, opposing Amazon’s request to prevent Future Retail (FRL) from further alienating its outlets, told the Supreme Court on Friday that the e-commerce giant “intended to destroy us, and it succeeded.”
FRL told a Bench led by Chief Justice NV Ramana that,“for Rs 1,400 crore (the Amazon-Future deal), Amazon has destroyed a Rs 26,000-crore company. Amazon has been successful in what it wanted to do… We are hanging by a thread. No one wants to do business with us now. When the landlord gives an eviction notice, what can we do?”
Senior attorney Harish Salve, who is representing FRL, remarked. He was alluding to Reliance Retail, a division of Reliance Industries, taking over 835 Future outlets for Rs 3,000 crore in unpaid rent.
Future’s allegation that it was short on cash and couldn’t pay its lease rental is a ruse… The fact that FRL’s expiring leases have now been transferred to Reliance is a premeditated and collusive conduct, and it’s unimaginable that over 830 stores could be closed without any attempt to save them.
He said that FRL had lost control of over 800 businesses due to the expiration of leases due to non-payment of rent and that the landlords had started the eviction process.
Amazon argued it was difficult to imagine FRL surrendered its 800 outlets without objection, claiming a conspiracy between FRL and Reliance Industries’ subsidiary.
FRL handed its stores to Reliance after giving the SC assurance on September 9, 2021, that its retail assets would continue to vest with it until the National Company Law Tribunal issued a final ruling sanctioning the merger scheme.
Senior counsel Gopal Subramanium, who is also representing Amazon, accused the Future Group of “fraud” and stated that the rapid handover of assets was a “sham” and a “smokescreen” that should not be done. The assets must remain with FRL pending the outcome of the arbitration, he stated. “The annual accounts as on December 2021 showed they had enough money to pay their rentals. There is not a slightly compelling evidence that they are not doing well,” he stated .
Meanwhile, FRL lenders requested the judges not to pass any order that will prejudice their rights. Senior counsel Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for Bank of India, said no interim order should be passed to prevent banks from taking any action.
The court was hearing Amazon’s plea to restrain FRL from alienating its retail assets until arbitration between the US company and the Future group concluded. The case will next be heard on April 4 when the court is expected to conclude the hearing.