Among the missing papers are documents belonging to top corporate entities

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has instituted two preliminary enquiries against unknown persons to probe into the mysterious disappearance of over a dozen files pertaining to coal block allocations during 1993-2005 and 2006-09. Some of the missing documents are said to be of top corporate entities with strong political links.

The decision comes a couple of days after the Supreme Court pulled up the Union government for not following the procedure contemplated in, and the rules framed under, the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act for coal block allocations.

“We have registered separate preliminary enquiries for the periods 1993-2005 and 2006-09. Two preliminary enquiries have been instituted as investigations for the respective periods are being carried out by two officers of Deputy Inspector-General rank. The arrangement has been made for administrative convenience to ensure a smooth probe. Otherwise, supervision of the cases would have to be brought under one officer,” said a senior CBI official.

The agency earlier this week received a letter from the Coal Ministry listing the files which had been located. Among the missing papers are application forms and supporting documents belonging to certain top corporate entities and also the crucial minutes of the 25th and the 26th screening committees that had recommended coal block allocations. While nearly 140 of the 157 set of documents still remain untraceable, on the basis of the Ministry letter and subsequent consultations with the authorities concerned, the CBI decided to file the preliminary enquiries.

The CBI earlier sent an exhaustive list of yet-to-be furnished papers, including those of the six companies against which it has registered cases, to Attorney General Goolam E. Vahanvati.

Role of officials

It is learnt that the agency would probe the role of officials from the Coal, Mines, Steel and Power Ministries besides some from the Prime Minister’s Office and private persons in connection with the missing files. Clarifications would also be sought from the respective State governments. “A proper case of destruction of evidence may be registered if we come across any such evidence,” said the official.

The CBI has so far registered 13 cases pertaining to alleged irregularities in the coal block allocations. “Investigations in some of the cases are hampered due to non-availability of the files and we have already submitted the facts before the Supreme Court. The documents are necessary to get an overall picture as regards the allocations made during the period under scrutiny. We are still not clear about the criteria on which applications for coal blocks were accepted or rejected,” said another official.

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