PM promises probe if files are not traced in 2 weeks

Govt will carry out a thorough investigation and ensure that the guilty are brought to book.

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi | Published: September 4, 2013 2:10 am

Statement fails to pacify Oppn,House stalled.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday broke his silence over the missing coal files,saying that his government would go in for a CBI probe if the files requisitioned by the agency were not traced in two weeks. He said efforts were on to locate the “papers” and argued that it would be “premature” to conclude that “some papers” are indeed missing — a statement that failed to pacify the opposition which stalled Parliament.

Both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha could not transact any business after the Prime Minister’s statement as the opposition forced repeated adjournments.

Singh,who last week aggressively took on the BJP in Parliament,appeared combative Tuesday as well. He said that “disregarding the factual position” that the government has handed over “a vast majority of the papers” sought by the CBI,“some members have gone ahead and drawn their own conclusions that there is something fishy and the government is hiding something”. He asked everyone not to draw “hasty conclusions”,asserting that “the government has nothing to hide”.

“With regard to the so-called missing files or papers pertaining to the ongoing investigation into allocation of coal blocks,I would like to emphasise that the government is making all efforts to locate the papers requisitioned by the CBI and,at this stage,it would be premature to say that some papers are indeed missing,” he said,days after he told Rajya Sabha that he was not the custodian of the files in the coal ministry.

Singh said over 1.5 lakh “pages of documentation” have already been provided to the CBI and argued that it “clearly shows that our intention to facilitate the process of investigation cannot be called into question”. He said if the records are indeed found missing,the government will carry out a thorough investigation and ensure that the guilty are brought to book.

Referring to the Supreme Court direction to the coal ministry to provide all the files and documents sought by the CBI within two weeks from September 5,Singh said the government will follow the directions “in letter and spirit” and do its best to locate and hand over the requisite papers to the CBI within the stipulated time frame.

“If the government is unable to locate some of these papers within the stipulated time,then as directed by the Supreme Court a report will be filed with the CBI for appropriate inquiry and investigation,” he said.

The statement failed to pacify the opposition. In Rajya Sabha,Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley said an attempt is being made to mislead the House by saying that the files which were missing were those prior to 2004.

Addressing the Prime Minister directly,Jaitley said,“If you take the different parameters of what constitute bad governance — fraud on revenue,contempt of court,breach of privilege,there is a possibility of conflict of interest and destruction of evidence. So every conceivable element of bad governance is present here,” he said. He said according to media reports the files which were missing related to those “very specific cases in which names of important functionaries close to the government are involved”. “Who in the government Mr Prime Minister is going to take the moral responsibility,” Jaitley asked.

CPM’s Sitaram Yechury sought to know why the government has not filed a case till now — a fact which he said leads to suspicion that something is amiss. AIADMK’s V Maitreyan told the Prime Minister that he alone was answerable to the country “as far as the coal scam is concerned”.

The Prime Minister left Rajya Sabha immediately after his statement,leaving the opposition BJP fuming. Venkaiah Naidu said the Prime Minister has not answered any of the questions raised by the opposition. In the Lok Sabha,Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj and BJP leader L K Advani wanted to speak after PM’s statement,but Speaker Meira Kumar rejected the demand leading to uproar and adjournment of the House twice.

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