The Union Cabinet on Thursday gave its approval to the constitution of a one-man Committee to look into the bribery allegations and lobbying activities by US retail giant Walmart, as disclosed by Walmart before the US Senate, and if they violated the law of the land by indulging in such activities.
The probe was approved at a meeting of the Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh here and the committee would submit its report within three months time.
An official statement issued said: "The Union Cabinet approved the appointment of a one-man Committee into the media reports concerning Wal-Mart."
The terms of reference of the Committee include:
To inquire into recent media reports on disclosures of Walmart before the US Senate regarding their lobbying activities and details;
Whether Walmart undertook any activities in India in contravention of any Indian law;
Any other matter relevant or incidental to the above. The Committee will submit its report within three months.
The winter session of Parliament was stalled by the Opposition after reports appeared in the media that Walmart had informed the US Senate hearing that it had indulged in lobbying for seeking entry into India’s multi-brand retail sector. Following the uproar, the government had informed Parliament that probe would be ordered into the issue.
Earlier on Thursday, Minister of Corporate Affairs, Sachin Pilot had stated that Government was in the process of giving a final shape to the process for setting up a one-man commission to look into allegations of bribery and lobbying activities against the US retail giant.
Talking to reporters after meeting senior executives of the country top companies here along with official of the Competition Commission of India (CCI), the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Kamal Nath had assured Parliament that he will set up a committee to look into the allegations in the Walmart case that have come in the media and we are working on that.
As per the commitment given by Mr. Nath in Parliament, the government promised to set up one-man commission to be headed by a retired High Court Chief Justice or a judge. The move to formally put in place a one-man Commission comes nearly a month after proceedings in Parliament were stalled over the allegations that the US retail giant indulged in lobbying here to gain entry into the Indian market.
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 Walmart 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.
In the meantime, Mr. Pilot asked companies to ensure fair trade practices in their markets and restrain from anti-competitive activities that hurt consumers. "If we work with that objective in mind as to how to protect the interest of the consumer, having a competition programme is the way forward," he added.
The Minister stressed that companies need to ensure that consumers are not burdened by the anti-competent practices that are taking place in some sectors. The meeting has come in the backdrop of increasing instances of complaints about companies abusing their dominant market positions or entering into anti- competitive pacts.