Wal-Mart lobbying: Government panel to submit its report soon

Wal-Mart lobbying: Government panel to submit its report soon
New Delhi:  A government-appointed panel probing Wal-Mart 's lobbying with the US lawmakers for its entry into Indian market will submit its report within a fortnight, wherein it may also suggest framing rules in India for lobby activities by companies.

The one-man committee, headed by former Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court Mukul Mudgal, held a meeting today with senior government officials and deliberated on information provided by the US-based global retail giant.

In its last meeting in April, the panel had sought some fresh details from Wal-Mart. Today's meeting, which was the fifth for the panel, is likely to be its last and the inquiry committee would now start writing its report, sources said.

Among other recommendations, the panel may suggest to the government to consider framing regulations for lobbying in India by the companies and their representatives, they added.

The committee was set up in January and was originally scheduled to submit its report by April 30. However, the government last month extended its tenure till May 31, 2013.

After the last meeting on April 10, Mr Mudgal had said that he has sought more information from Wal-Mart. Among others, the panel's meetings have been attended by representatives from
Wal-Mart, senior officials from the Corporate Affairs Ministry and the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion.

Following reports about Wal-Mart's lobbying among the US lawmakers since 2008 for facilitating its entry into the Indian market, the government in December 2012 had assured Parliament to get the matter probed by a retired judge.

The committee was also asked to look into "whether Wal-Mart undertook any activities in India in contravention of any Indian law", and any other matter relevant to this issue.

Besides this probe, regulatory agencies here are also probing allegations of bribery against Wal-Mart in India.

The Corporate Affairs Ministry is providing administrative support to the committee, which has already discussed responses received from the public on the matter.

As per Congressional records of lobbying disclosure reports, the company spent a total amount of 6.13 million dollars (about Rs 33 crore) on lobbying for various issues, including on "discussions related to FDI in India", during entire 2012.

Lobbying is legal in the US, but companies and their lobbyists are required to make disclosures of such activities every quarter. However, there are no specific regulations for lobbying in India.

Corporate Affairs Minister Sachin Pilot had said in an earlier interview that there was a need to define lobbying through a legal framework, so as to differentiate advocacy from bribery. He had also favoured disclosures by companies and industry bodies about their representations to government on specific policy issues.

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