India's federal cabinet Thursday approved setting up a one-man committee to look into the allegation that the US retail giant Walmart violated Indian regulations by indulging in lobbying activities to set up shop in the country.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari told reporters after the cabinet meeting here that a retired judge of the Supreme Court or chief justice of a high court would probe the allegations.
The committee will submit its report within three months, according to an official statement released after the cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
According to the terms of reference, the committee would “inquire into recent media reports on disclosures of Walmart before the US Senate regarding their lobbying activities and details.”
It would probe “whether Walmart undertook any activities in India in contravention of any Indian law,” the statement said.
In another development in Davos, Switzerland, Walmart chief executive officer Doug McMillon met Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma to discuss the possibility of opening supermarkets in India.
McMillon conveyed to Sharma that Walmart is “excited about India” and was studying the conditions before making the final announcement.
“Sharma said that India’s policy on FDI in multi-brand retail has finality and they need not be unduly concerned about any policy reversal,” the commerce and industry ministry said in a statement here.
The lobbying issue had rocked parliament's winter session in December and forced a vote that the opposition sought to project as a referendum on whether the country needed FDI in retail or not.
Walmart in a report recently said that it spent $25 million on lobbying US lawmakers over the past four years, including on issues related to enhanced market access in India.
Lobbying is not permitted in India but it is allowed under the US laws with proper disclosure.