Opposition questions government on coal-block probe

New Delhi, Sep 4 (IANS) Political parties Wednesday slammed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement on the missing coal block allocation files and asked how investigations would proceed in the absence of documentary evidence.

Raising the issue in the Rajya Sabha after repeated adjournments, leader of opposition Arun Jaitley of the Bharatiya Janata Party said the prime minister in his statement had made it appear that the issue of missing files was hypothetical.

Jaitley said a newspaper had reported an official investigating the coal block allocations had sought oral examination of the prime minister as he was in charge of the coal ministry from 2006 to 2009 but the Central Bureau of Investigation decided against it.

He said files contain documentary evidence about the decisions.

"Somebody has to respond how the investigation is going to proceed ... documents are missing and oral evidence will not be allowed," he said.

Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury criticised the prime minister for his remarks that it would be premature to say some papers were missing.

"Either the files are there or not. It is a matter of reality, not views," Yechury said.

He wondered why the government had not lodged a first information report in relation to the missing files. Yechury said the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had examined the coal block allocation files and the government could procure these from the agency if they had kept a record.

Naresh Agrawal of the Samajwadi Party said Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal should have taken moral responsibility for the missing files and resigned.

V. Maitreyan of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam said the prime minister should accept that files were missing.

Derek O. Brien of the Trinamool Congress said the prime minister had said that he was not a custodian of the missing files.

"Who is the custodian. A time line is maintained of files. Can he present timeline (of missing files)," he asked.

D. Raja of the Communist Party of India said CAG had said the financial loss due to coal block allocation was to the tune of Rs.186,000 crore.

"That files are missing is in public domain. The prime minister cannot say he is not a custodian of files," he said.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajeev Shukla said the process of seeking clarifications on the coal minister's statement on the missing files had not ended. Shukla said he would convey views of members to the minister.

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