Action on Walmart lobbying to depend on US probe: Pilot

Tags: News
Government will take necessary action on lobbying by Walmart to enter India if US authorities come out with "something tangible" on this matter, but a probe here could not substantiate allegations against the global retail giant, Corporate Affairs Minister Sachin Pilot says.

While pitching for a public debate on corporate lobbying, the minister also said that the two issues -- need to define lobbying in India and the alleged impropriety by Walmart -- are different from each other.

Government had ordered a probe in December 2012 into lobbying activities undertaken by the US-based Walmart to enter Indian retail market.

However, the government-appointed one-man inquiry panel in its report, which was tabled in the Rajya Sabha last month, could not "conclude in the absence of any material evidence available on record up till now, that Walmart indulged in any lobbying/bribery to Indian officials".

While the probe was ordered after a huge uproar by opposition parties in Parliament, the enquiry report could not be debated when it was tabled due to repeated disruptions.

"What happened in Parliament is something we are all saddened by and we could have had discussions on it," Pilot told PTI in an interview.

"The short point is that the committee was set up as a response to the issues raised in Parliament about allegations of bribery etc.

"So whatever evidence, material and individuals were called they gave their accounts to Justice Mukul Mudgal (head of the enquiry panel) and his committee, they were reported. What the company has reported in the US, we are not privy.

"If more such issues come up or something tangible comes up which is taken cognisance by the US authorities then we will certainly look at it. So far in his findings, he did not find anything to substantiate the allegations made," Pilot said.

Walmart is separately being probed in the US for alleged foreign bribery charges, while it had also instituted some internal investigation into these matters.

Asked about the need to clearly define lobbying, Pilot said that the larger issue remains "whether we should have definition, clarifications about the concept of lobbying, what it means etc.

"I am of the view that we have to define it at some point of time, today or later, but times are demanding for us to come out with clear definitions about legality and illegality, or, what is allowed and what is not allowed."

Pilot, whose ministry was the nodal agency for Walmart probe committee, further said that a clear definition of lobbying would help "see good from bad".

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