Judicial inquiry into lobbying by Wal-Mart

Yielding to pressure from political parties, government on Wednesday announced a time-bound inquiry by a retired judge into reports of lobbying by retail giant Wal-Mart to gain entry into India and inform the House "as fast as possible".

"Today, I would like to inform the House that the government will appoint a retired judge to hold an inquiry into the media reports concerning Wal-Mart," parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath announced in the Lok Sabha as soon as it assembled for the day. Nath said the inquiry would be time-bound so that "as fast as possible, the House is informed of its results."

Opposition members, including those of Trinamool Congress and the SP, wanted the government to clarify whether it would be a retired judge of the Supreme Court or the High Court.

The issue of retail giant Wal-Mart lobbying in the US for access to Indian markets created storm in Parliament during the past two days with parties demanding time-bound probe by a Joint Parliamentary Committee or a judicial panel to ascertain if bribe was paid here.

UPA's outside supporters RJD and SP, which had last week bailed out the ruling coalition during a vote in Parliament on the FDI in retail issue, were among those demanding a thorough probe into reports that money was spent in India. Through the announcement, the government has also made it clear that it was not keen on a JPC probe, a demand for which was made by JD(U), AIADMK, Trinamool Congress, RJD and CPI in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

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