Walmart probe by retired judge: Kamal Nath

Kamal Nath announced on Wednesday that the government will appoint a retired judge to hold the inquiry into reports on lobbying by Walmart.

New Delhi: To ensure smooth functioning of Parliament, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath announced in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday that the government will appoint a retired judge to hold the inquiry into reports on lobbying by international supermarket chain Walmart to open the way for foreign equity in retail trade in India.

Making the announcement soon after the House met for the day, Kamal Nath said it would be a time-bound inquiry.

Despite the Centre making it absolutely clear that it was open to inquiry on the Walmart lobbying issue, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Yashwant Sinha on Tuesday had asked the Congress-led UPA government to order a judicial probe in connection with the case and see that the report is submitted within 60 days.

Sinha, who was the country`s finance minister during the NDA regime, said the main point that arises is the nature of probe that will be ordered in connection with this lobbying case.

"It is not only the question of being ready for a probe. The question is what kind of an investigation will be undertaken and within how many days will the probe be complete. Taking note of the sentiments of the House, they (government) are now saying that they are ready for a probe," said Sinha.

"My proposal was that the probe must be judicial and the report of it must be put forward within 60 days. This is my proposal and we would like to know whether the government agrees on this proposal or not," he added.

Nath had said that the government views the Walmart lobbying case with concern and has no hesitation in ordering an inquiry on this in as much as it concerns payments made in India.

US retail giant Walmart has made it clear that no money was spent on ``Indian contacts `` after the Congress-led UPA Government was alleged by the Opposition parties of accepting money from American company.

The media report had claimed that Walmart had lobbied with US lawmakers for the last four years to facilitate their entry into the Indian retail market.

It claimed that the company had spent 25 million dollars as per a report submitted in US senate. The amount is equivalent to Rs 125 crore.

In a statement, Walmart said: "These disclosures have nothing to do with political or governmental contacts with India government officials."