All efforts on to find untraceable coal files: PM

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaks in the Rajya Sabha during ongoing monsoon session of parliament in New Delhi. PTI Photo
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaks in the Rajya Sabha during ongoing monsoon session of parliament in New Delhi. PTI Photo

New Delhi, Sep 3 (PTI): Facing all-round attack, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said all efforts are being made to locate the untraceable files related to coal block allocations and CBI will be asked to investigate if these efforts do not fructify.

In a statement in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha in view of demands by almost all parties, Singh insisted that the government has nothing to hide and its intent to facilitate probe in the coal block allocations should not be questioned.

He said the government will abide by the timeline set by the Supreme Court for handing over of all the files there should be no “hasty” conclusion that something is “fishy”.

“I would like to re-emphasise that government is making all efforts to locate the files requisitioned by CBI. At this stage, it would be premature to say that files are missing. A vast majority of files have been handed over and that is the factual position.

“However, disregarding this, some members have drawn conclusion that there is something fishy and that the government is hiding. The government has nothing to hide. The fact that more than 1,50,000 pages have been handed over to CBI clearly shows that our intention to facilitate the investigation cannot be called into questioning,” said Singh.

Singh said, “If the government is unable to locate some of those papers, a report will be filed with CBI for a thorough probe.”

He said if the record in question is indeed found missing, government will carry out a thorough investigation and ensure that the guilty are booked.

In the Rajya Sabha, Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley asked the Prime Minister as to what steps the government was taking to locate the missing coal files and who in the government was going to take the responsibility for the missing files.

Members were seeking clarifications on Coal Minister’s statement made earlier in the House on missing coal files.

The Prime Minister said the matter pertaining to missing Coal files was sub-judice and the government shall follow the Supreme Court directions in letter and spirit and “do its very best to locate and hand over the requisite papers to the CBI within the time frame stipulated time by the Court”.

As Singh made the statement in both Houses, BJP and Left parties created uproar expressing dissatisfaction.

In Lok Sabha, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj and BJP leader L K Advani wanted to speak, but Speaker Meira Kumar rejected the demand leading to uproar and the House was adjourned till 3 PM.

Singh said right from the days the CAG carried out the exercise of performing the audit, Government has always forwarded fullest cooperation to CAG and the CBI. “We will continue to do so,” he said.

He said in case government is unable to locate some of those papers, a report will be filed with CBI for a thorough probe.

“If the record in question is indeed found missing, government will carry out a thorough investigation and ensure that the guilty are booked,” he said.

“In such a situation, I urge members of this House not to draw hasty conclusions and let the House continue with the normal business,” he said.

Jaitley earlier said the Coal Minister has given two separate statements in Rajya Sabha in which the number of files missing are different and said, “It is an example of how the arithmetic of this government works”.

He also sought to know how many of the missing files pertained to the period between 2006 and 2009 when Prime Minister held the charge of the Coal Ministry.

Attacking the government, Jaitley said there have been “arbitrary allocations” and “act of nepotism, favoritism” in coal block allocations and alleged there is an attempt to destroy the evidence so that there is no proof of crime.

“An attempt is being made to mislead the House that all files missing pertain to that prior to 2004,” he said, alleging that “every conceivable element of bad governance is present there.”

Attacking the Prime Minister for his remarks that he was not the custodian of files in the Coal Ministry, V Maitreyan (AIADMK) said, “As far as coal scam is concerned you and you alone are answerable to the country…Mystery of missing files in coal scam is getting murkier by day.”

Maitreyan said, “last week PM was unusually aggressive that he is not the custodian of files. He should say he is the custodian of files in PMO” and demanded to know who was Joint Secretary of the PMO, who had gone to the CBI office and why did he go there.

“A Joint Secretary of PMO had gone to CBI office…who was the Joint Secretary and how he went there? … What answer PM has to give?” he posed.

He said the Prime Minister was holding the charge of the coal portfolio during the period when files went missing while the Minister of State for Coal was also from Congress.

Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) sought to know why no FIR was registered in regard to missing files, saying it increased doubts about involvement of key government functionaries.

“We are not satisfied with answers by the Coal Minister …I had raised one point why no FIR was done, no case was lodged and no investigation is done…the fact that it is not done increases the bar of suspiscion…Identify and punish the guilty,” he said.

He said these were cases on which CAG had given its report and revealed about presumptive losses to the tune of Rs 1.86 lakh crore to the exchequer on account of these allocations.

“We as a Parliament want to know how this happened,” Yechury said and questioned why government did not request the CAG to furnish details of the missing files since CAG’s estimates were based on it.

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