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Wal-mart issue: Govt proposing commission of inquiry

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 20:39

New Delhi: The government is proposing to set up a commission of inquiry to probe reported allegations that retail giant Wal-Mart had indulged in lobbying activities in India and find out whether these were in contravention of Indian laws.

The proposal to set up a one-man commission to be headed by a retired high court chief justice or judge is expected to be considered by the Cabinet on Thursday.

The move comes over a month after the proceedings of Parliament during the Winter session were paralysed over the issue.

Following uproar by Opposition parties, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath had announced that the government was ready for a probe and that it will be headed by a retired judge.

According to the proposal of the Corporate Affairs Ministry, the Commission, to be set up under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1951, will submit its report within three months of its constitution.

The Terms of Reference include probe into "recent media reports regarding their lobbying activities" and "whether Wal-Mart undertook any activity in India in contravention of any Indian law".

Under the Commission of Inquiry Act, it is obligatory on part of the government to table the probe report as well as the action report in Parliament.

Wal-Mart, waiting for years to open its supermarkets in India, has been lobbying with the US lawmakers since 2008 to facilitate its entry into the highly lucrative Indian market.

As per the lobbying disclosure reports filed by Wal-Mart with the US Senate, the company has spent close to USD 25 million (about Rs 125 crore) since 2008 on its various lobbying activities, including on the issues related to "enhanced market access for investment in India".

In the last quarter ended September 30, 2012, the company spent USD 1.65 million (about Rs 10 crore) on various lobbying issues, which included "discussions related to FDI in India".

Bharti Wal-Mart has already denied wrongdoing saying the allegations of corruption are "entirely false".

It had said the amount mentioned in its disclosure is a "compilation of expenses associated with staff, association dues, consultants and contributions spent in the US."

Lobbying is legal in the US.


First Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 20:16
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