The government on Wednesday announced the appointment of a retired judge to probe spending by U.S. supermarket chain Walmart on lobbying in Washington to ease access to foreign markets, including India.
Walmart, in a disclosure report to the U.S. Senate, said it had spent $25 million over four years on lobbying, including issues related to "enhanced market access for investment in India".
The report has sparked a political ruckus in New Delhi with opposition lawmakers, who are against Walmart's entry into India, calling for an inquiry into whether any money was spent by the supermarket chain in India.
"The government will appoint a retired judge to hold a time-bound inquiry into the media reports regarding Walmart," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said in the Lok Sabha.
Walmart has said there was nothing illegal about the practice and the U.S. State Department also stated no laws had been broken. On Wednesday, Walmart reiterated that allegations of improper conduct on its part were untrue. "The allegation that a routine U.S. lobbying disclosure form reflects improper conduct on our part in India, is false. This disclosure has nothing to do with political or governmental contacts with India government officials," it said.
US ambassador to India Nancy Powell also defended the retail giant, saying Walmart had incurred the lobbying expense in the United States and not in India.
"What has happened is accusations that this money was bribery. What it is, is lobbying. In the US, those are two very separate things," Powell was quoted as saying in a newspaper.
The opposition, led by the BJP, has pounced on Walmart's disclosure report to stall parliamentary proceedings.
Walmart reiterates that allegations of improper conduct are untrue Walmart incurred lobbying expense in U.S. and not in India: Nancy Powell
Walmart reiterates that allegations of improper conduct are untrue
Walmart incurred lobbying expense in U.S. and not in India: Nancy Powell