PM says nothing to hide on coal scam

New Delhi, Sep 3 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told parliament Tuesday that his government had nothing to hide on the coal scam, but this only triggered more opposition protests.

Manmohan Singh said it would be wrong to conclude that official papers sought by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with the alleged irregularities in allocation of coal blocks were indeed missing.

"Let me assure this august house that the government has nothing to hide," the prime minister told the Rajya Sabha and then the Lok Sabha, reading out a prepared statement.

Speaking a day before his departure to Russia to attend the G20 Summit, he said some members had ignored the factual position and concluded "that there is something fishy".

He urged the members not to draw hasty conclusions and "let the house continue its normal business".

During 2006-09, 204 coal blocks were allocated to state-run and private companies. Of these, licences of 40 blocks were later cancelled.

Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal had told parliament Aug 23 that a total of 189 documents related to the coal block allocations were missing.

Manmohan Singh said the fact that more than 150,000 pages had already been given to the CBI showed that the government's intention to facilitate the CBI investigation could not be doubted.

He said the government had cooperated with the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and the CBI. "We will continue to do so."

The prime minister said the matter of allocation of coal blocks was sub judice and the Supreme Court was looking into all aspects of the controversial allocations.

"The government shall follow directions (of the Supreme Court) in letter and spirit and do its best to locate and hand over the requisite papers to the CBI within the stipulate time," he said.

He added that if some files were indeed found missing, the government would carry out a thorough investigation and the guilty would be punished.

"(The) government is making all efforts to locate the papers (missing documents)."

He assured parliament that if the government failed to locate the missing papers, a report would be filed with the CBI.

But the prime minister's statement did not satisfy the opposition benches.

The Bharatiya Janata Party and other parties said the prime minister had not responded to their concerns.

As Manmohan Singh left the Rajya Sabha, there were noisy protests by the opposition.

Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson P.J. Kurien tried to restore order but failed, leaving to its adjournment till 2 p.m.

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