Walmart case: Government mulls defining lobbying activities
In the wake of a probe into Walmart's US lobbying efforts to enter Indian retail market remaining inconclusive, the government is now considering a possible framework to define 'lobbying' to differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate activities.
The government had constituted a one-man probe panel to look into Walmart's lobbying activities, after a political furore over the issue late last year. The panel submitted its report to the Corporate Affairs Ministry in May this year,pursuant to which the Ministry sought comments from External Affairs Ministry and Finance Ministry, among others.
An Action Taken Report (ATR), prepared after taking into account suggestions from Corporate Affairs and External Affairs Ministries, among others, on the probe findings is pending before the Cabinet, which may take it up for consideration soon, sources said.
As the probe findings remained inconclusive on whether the American retail giant violated Indian laws in carrying out lobbying with US lawmakers to enter the country's lucrative retail market, the government is now looking into whether a legal framework needs to be put in place to define lobbying.
The probe was announced by the government in Parliament last December and the findings of the investigations, along with the ATR, may be tabled in the Parliament as well.
The government is of the view that a wider consultation process, including suggestions from the general public and other stakeholders, can be undertaken before taking a final call on whether and how to define lobbying, sources said.
This would help differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate activities in the name of lobbying, they added.
Lobbying is legal in the US and many other countries, with the concerned companies and their registered lobbyists required to make proper disclosures about such activities.
The government-appointed probe panel, headed by former Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court Mukul Mudgal, had submitted its report to Corporate Affairs Ministry on May 18.
Earlier Corporate Affairs Minister Sachin Pilot had said that lobbying needs to be defined to differentiate it from influencing the policymakers through illegal means.
"As a policymaker, I welcome every input and it is absolutely fine if such inputs help in putting in place a right policy.... But, when you adopt means to influence policymakers in ways that are illegal, that is not lobbying and that can not be permitted," Pilot had said.
Meanwhile, Walmart has resumed lobbying activities with American lawmakers on matters related to FDI in India. The retailer spent as much as USD 1.5 million on about 50 specific issues, including those related to Indian market in the July-September quarter of 2013.
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