Amid the ongoing debate, Corporate Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Tuesday said that lobbying and public relations are part of a democratic set-up but cautioned against their use to subvert corporate governance.
"When you talk of lobbying, PR, these are areas that are part of the democratic system. Their illegitimate use, their use to subvert corporate governance is something that we should certainly look at," Khurshid said on the sidelines of the 'India Corporate Week' event in New Delhi.
The minister's comments come in the backdrop of the leakage of conversations of corporate lobbyist Niira Radia with politicians, corporates and media personalities which have stirred a hornets' nest.
Lobbying is a legitimate business in countries like the US, however, opined Diljeet Titus, senior partner of law firm Titus & Co, "is not recognised in India in statutory or non-statutory form."
On the other hand, he said, "lobbying, which basically means influencing government decisions externally, could invite Prevention of Corruption Act and may also go against the service rules for bureaucrats".
Lalit Bhasin, managing partner Bhasin & Co, said, "in the US lobbying is not only for corporates, but also for appointing judges. It is a flourishing industry there, a recognised mode of canvassing... In India, it is a developing phenomena like the public relations."
He added that lobbying, which is an act of trying to influence government leaders, is not seen as good corporate practice in India.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that he has asked Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar to look into the issue of telephone tapping and suggest measures within a month to prevent the leakages of recorded conversations outside the government.
Khurshid said that Singh's statement should come as an assurance to industry that their privacy will be protected.
"(The) PM has made it very very clear what the position is and corporates should be reassured that there is no question of hiding anything, running away and not explicitly and transparently explaining why what is done and the extent to which privacy has to be protected and information has to be protected," Khurshid said.
The prime minister's remarks came in the backdrop of Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata approaching the Supreme Court against the leakage of tapes involving him and corporate lobbyist Niira Radia and further publication of the same.
HDFC chairman Deepak Parikh had also commented on telephone tapping and leakage of 'private conversations' saying that the morale of the industry has been hurt by such incidents.
The Radia tapes are now part of the evidence under scrutiny by the Supreme Court in a public interest litigation that wants the Apex Court to monitor cases against former telecom minister A Raja. The court had Friday declined to stay the publication of the Radia tapes.
Raja had resigned as communications minister on November 7 after the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) indicted him for 2G spectrum allocation which, the government auditor said, caused a notional loss of billions of rupees.