Inquiry committee meets Wal-Mart officials; seeks lobbying details

Inquiry committee meets Wal-Mart officials; seeks lobbying details

A government-appointed inquiry committee, looking into the US lobbying activities of Wal-Mart Stores for Indian market foray, on Friday met senior executives of the global retail giant and sought details on the issue.

The Committee met the representatives of Walmart Asia as well as those of Bharti Walmart Private Ltd, the company’s Indian joint venture with Bharti group, along with their counsel here.

The companies were asked to provide details on queries raised by the committee, which was set up earlier this year to inquire into reports of the US-based firm’s lobbying among the American lawmakers for entering the high-growth Indian market. The committee is also looking into “whether Wal-Mart undertook any activities in India in contravention of any Indian law”, and any other matter relevant to this issue.

In today’s meeting, the one-man committee, headed by former Chief Justice of Punjab & Haryana High Court Mukul Mudgal, decided to wait for the responses from Walmart Asia and Bharti Walmart before proceeding further.

“After discussions, it was decided to await responses of the above companies to the queries raised by the committee,” the Corporate Affairs Ministry said in a statement. The date for the next meeting of the committee is yet to be decided, but it could happen in the second week of April. The committee, for which the Corporate Affairs Ministry is providing administrative support, has been asked to submit its report by April 30, 2013. Officials of the Corporate Affairs Ministry were also present at today’s meeting.

In the wake of intense political heat, the government in December had announced a probe into the lobbying activities by Walmart in the US for gaining access to Indian market.

The panel is also discussing responses received to a public notice put out by it, wherein the government had solicited information from the general public on the terms of reference of the committee. In the wake of reports about Wal-Mart’s lobbying activities among the US lawmakers since 2008 for facilitating its entry into Indian market, the government late last year assured Parliament to get the matter probed by a retired judge.

Later, the government set up the committee, whose terms of reference include inquiring into “media reports on disclosures of Wal-Mart before the US Senate regarding their lobbying activities and details thereof”.

Earlier on March 7, the panel met with senior officials of the Department of Industrial Promotion and Policy, Ministry of Corporate Affairs and the Ministry of External Affairs.