Lobbying needs to be defined; cos should make disclosures, says Pilot

Written by Press Trust of India | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 24 2012, 08:58am hrs
Calling for a need to define lobbying through a legal framework to differentiate between advocacy and bribery, corporate affairs minister Sachin Pilot has favoured disclosures by companies and industry bodies about their representations to government on specific policy issues.

I think that time has come to define what is acceptable and what is not. What is legal and what is not legal. I think, in most countries we have that definition, but in India, it is pretty vague. It is wrong to assume that lobbying means bribery, but some people allege that it is bribery, Pilot said.

There has been a heated debate within Parliament and outside in the recent past on lobbying after it came to light that various global companies, including retail giant Wal-Mart, lobbied with the US lawmakers to push for their entry and other business interests in the Indian markets.

While lobbying is legal in the US, the companies as well as their lobbyists are required to make quarterly disclosures with the US Congress about such activities and the money spent on the same. However, there are no specific regulations about lobbying and disclosure of these activities in India.

Asked whether the companies and industry bodies in India should also make such disclosures on a quarterly or yearly basis, Pilot said: I think, they should.

There is no harm in making the disclosures if you are professionally and officially calling upon certain official or a minister, MLAs, MPs or even a sarpanch to say that there is something of their interest and request for facilitating the same, Pilot said.

If I as a politician am required to make disclosures on the floor of the house whether I am against or for a particular policy, so must do the industry, industrialists and the industry associations, he added.

We need to be clear as to what lobbying means. We have to first define what the act of lobbying means. When I am lobbying, whether I am doing it for advocacy, am I changing minds of people about certain ideas by holding conferences, seminars, writing about issues, those are advocacies. Lobbying could mean different things in different context, the minister said.

Asked whether the ministry of corporate affairs (MCA) would consider asking companies and industry bodies to make disclosures about their lobbying activities, Pilot said: Yes, time has come and I have no issues in taking up this matter in the corporate affairs ministry.

I will be happy to take up this issue with industry associations and make sure that the people know. In fact, it is important and people must know about what associations, what chambers of commerce are asking for what.

He, however, clarified that the MCA has not initiated any process officially as yet for making regulatory framework in this regard.

At the government level, it will need more discussions with various political parties, among various coalition partners and even within the Congress party, the minister said.