Union Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal on Saturday admitted that some files related to the coal block allocation scam are missing.
"It is true that some files from 1993 to 2004 are missing. Attempts (to find them) are on, we are in touch with the CMPDIL, the ministry of steel. If they have the files, they should make it available," he said.
A committee headed by an additional secretary of the ministry is inquiring into how the files have gone missing. It will also coordinate with other government departments to trace the copies of the missing files, Jaiswal said.
When asked how many files are missing, the coal minister said that he does not have the exact information about them, adding that the issue of missing files was a matter of concern.
The Central Bureau of Investigation, on July 31, had said that at least five crucial files related to the allotment of coal blocks between 2006 and 2009 have not been received by it, despite providing specific details.
The CBI has so far registered 13 cases related to block allotments between 2006 and 2009 for alleged misrepresentation of facts by the beneficiaries while applying for the blocks.
In June, the coal ministry had constituted an inter-ministerial panel to look into the issue of missing files. The panel has so far held one meeting.
Some time ago, the coal ministry had informed a Parliamentary committee that it is trying to locate the lost and missing files on coal block allocation in the wake of the Supreme
Court saying the Centre was not helping the CBI with documents in its probe.
Commenting on the development, senior Communist Party of India – Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury said that his party will strongly raise the issue of "missing files" in Parliament next week and seek a reply from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
"There are reports that coal block allocation files have gone missing. We will raise it strongly in Parliament on Monday. In an era of digitisation, how can you say that files are missing? The prime minister will have to reply," he said in Delhi.
BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said that right from day one, the government has been trying to hide the facts from the CBI enquiry.
"This is with the sole intention to protect the prime minister because he was the coal minister. And they are into a massive cover-up. That is why they say that some files are missing or misplaced," he said.
He alleged that the government does not want to share information with the CBI.
"That is why we will follow it up and we are hopeful that in the next hearing the Supreme Court also will, because thousands of files have not been handed over to the CBI yet, so the enquiry would never be completed," he added.
Image: A BJP activist protests against the coal scam ' Photograph: Reuters