PM finds nothing fishy about missing coal files
Facing all-round attack, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has 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.
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'The government has nothing to hide'
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.
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Image: An activist from Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, wearing a cut-out of India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, lies on a heap of charcoal during a protest in New Delhi
'Attempt being made to destroy evidence'
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.
Jaitley earlier said the coal minister had given two separate statements in Rajya Sabha in which the number of files missing were different. "It is an example of how the arithmetic of this government works," he said.
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."
Image: Labourers load coal on trucks at Bari Brahamina on the outskirts of Jammu.
Photographs: Mukesh Gupta/Reuters
'Mystery of missing files getting murkier by day'
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 (Communist Party of India-Marxist) 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 suspicion...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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'PM has not even answered one question'
Derek O Brien (Trinamool) questioned who was the custodian of missing files and when and where these files went missing.
Naresh Agarwal (Samajwadi Party) sought to know who was heading the coal portfolio during the period when files went missing and what were the observations given by the Public Accounts Committee on CAG report.
Mayawati (Bahujan Samaj Party) said the issue of missing files was a serious matter and the prime minister should tell that why action was not initiated against the officials responsible for the files which went missing.
"Why no FIR was lodged despite Supreme Court's intervention and why the government was delaying lodging the FIR against the guilty," she asked.
When the prime minister left the House after his statement, majority of the Opposition members were on feet, shouting slogans and saying they were dissatisfied.
With BJP members shouting "shame-shame", Venkaiah Naidu (BJP) said amid the uproar that the PM did not answer any of the questions raised by the Leader of the Opposition or other members.
"Not even one question was answered," he said, on which Deputy Chairman P J Kurien intervened saying, "You wanted PM to come and reply. PM came and replied. It is for the PM to reply what he wants. We cannot expect PM to say what we want...This is not fair...Please cooperating."
Ravi Shankar Prasad (BJP) remarked that the magnitude of the scam has agitated people of India and "we request PM to reply...Now we are being told that our concerns would be addressed by the coal minister" which is not acceptable.
This was retorted by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajeev Shukla who said, "Clarification has been given. You are trying to take undue political advantage...PM has responded...Now BJP is disrespecting Parliament."
However, with members unrelenting, Kurien adjourned the House till 2 pm.