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Piyush Goyal: SC verdict against Amazon, Flipkart came on historic day of Quit India Movement!

Piyush Goyal, Commerce and Industry Minister

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said in Parliament on Tuesday that he was “happy” about the Supreme Court verdict that requires US e-commerce giant Amazon and its arch rival Walmart-owned Flipkart to face investigations into allegations of anti-competitive behaviour and unfair trade practices that hurt small traders.

Mr Goyal in his remark referred to the historic "Quit India" movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi in 1942 to end British rule in the country to drive home his point.

"These companies used legal tactics to stall the investigation … I am happy to tell you that yesterday, on the day of the Quit India Movement, all the efforts of these companies failed," Mr Goyal quipped.

"The top court decided that CCI should probe the allegations of fraudulent, unfair trade practices that they engage in," the minister added.

Also read:  Billionaires Jeff Bezos and Narayana Murthy part ways as Amazon faces legal heat

Goyal,who is known for calling a spade a spade, had earlier said that he had found some American corporations to be “arrogant” in their behaviour when he met their top bosses to discuss issues.

The minister has continuously emphasised that the interests of small neighbourhood mon and pop stores that provide employment to mllions of people cannot be sacrificed at the altar of big profit.

Piyush Goyal's comments are the latest sign of New Delhi's discontent with the two US e-commerce giants, which have for years faced allegations of bypassing laws to run their businesses and hurting smaller retailers.

On Monday, the Supreme Court pulled up Amazon and Flipkart for trying to stall investigations into their business operations ordered in 2020 by the Competition Commission of India (CCI). The apex court had observed that  big organisations should be transparent and volunteer to assist in any inquiry.

Mr Goyal told MPs the big e-commerce firms were supposed to operate a marketplace website that connects buyers and sellers, but it was found they "continuously used various legal tactics" that hurt small businesses. "The government has taken stern steps," he added. 

Meanwhile, Amazon.com and one of its biggest sellers in India, Cloudtail, have decided to end their relationship after the Supreme Court refused to stay an investigation of the Competition Commission of India into the US retail giant’s Indian operations.

Rival brick-and-mortar retailers have been continuously complaining that Amazon was giving preferential treatment to Cloudtail in violation of the country’s FDI law. 

A joint venture between Jeff Bezos-led Amazon and Infosys founder N. Narayana Murthy-controlled Cloudtail was due for renewal on May 19, 2022, but the two companies said in a joint statement they had decided not to extend the partnership beyond this date.

Amazon operates as an online marketing platform and is not allowed to sell goods of its own companies as the Indian law does not permit FDI in the retail segment.

A Reuters journalistic investigation in February found Amazon publicly called Cloudtail an independent seller offering goods on its marketplace website, but internal company documents revealed the U.S. company was deeply involved in expanding it and used it, among other sellers, to circumvent the country's foreign investment laws.