New Delhi: Advocating a transparent system for stakeholders to put across their viewpoint on policy matters, Corporate Affairs Minister Sachin Pilot says lobbying needs to be defined to differentiate it from influencing the policymakers through illegal means.
The issue of corporate lobbying has been a matter of debate for past few months in the wake of global retail giant Walmart having lobbied hard before the US lawmakers to seek their support on its India entry plans.
Walmart's lobbying disclosure led to an intense debate within and outside Parliament in December and the government subsequently order a probe into the matter. The one-man probe panel has submitted its report to Corporate Affairs Ministry and the same would presented in the Parliament along with an Action Taken Report in the next session starting tomorrow.
Asked whether the government would take this opportunity (Walmart matter) to come out with a clear set of guidelines on corporate lobbying in India, the Minister said: "I don't know whether we should use this report for this purpose, but certainly we need to define the things."
Lobbying is legally permitted in a number of countries, including the US, and they require registered lobbyists and the concerned companies to make mandatory disclosures about such activities and the expenses involved.
However, India has no such guidelines in place currently.
"Whenever there is confusion or arbitrariness about certain words, it somehow develops a negative connotation and lobbying is one such word," Pilot told PTI in an interview.
"People who advocate certain policies, or are against or in favour of some policies, they actually give inputs. It could be termed as lobbying, advocacy, or any other such word.
"If it is compliant with Indian laws that is fine. But if you are breaking the law, then you don't call it lobbying and then it is illegal," the Minister said.
"I think we should be able to define what this profession means and what these people and companies do.... They should be able to register themselves and say this is what we do... It should be (done) openly and in a transparent manner," he added.
Pilot said there could be groups, individuals, associations, NGOs, industry chambers, who present their view before the government and that can also be called lobbying.
"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 cannot be permitted," the Minister said.
Asked whether he would initiate a process for defining lobbying and putting in place the required guidelines, Pilot said: "I will be happy to talk about it, whether it is within Parliament or outside Parliament, within the government or with other stakeholders."
First Published: Sunday, August 4, 2013, 17:51