Only seven files, 173 applications and nine other documents sought by the Central Bureau of Investigation from the Coal Ministry for probing the coal blocks allocation scam are untraceable, the Centre said on Friday.

“It would be wrong to say a large number of files are missing, as there are only a handful of files yet to be located and handed over to the CBI,” Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal told the Rajya Sabha.

“Of the 43 files [which the investigating agency demanded last week], 21 have already been handed over to the CBI, 15 are available for handing over…Efforts are being made to locate the rest of the seven files. Out of 19 applications [of coal block allottees/applicants], three have already been made available to the CBI. The remaining 16 along with 157 applications [of private companies which applied prior to June 28, 2004 but have not been allocated coal blocks]…are being searched. Out of the 17 other documents, six have been supplied, two are available for handing over and nine are being searched,” Mr. Jaiswal said.

Clarifications sought by the CBI in nine cases would also be provided shortly, he added.

On a day when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was present in the House to give clarifications and answer Opposition queries on the issue, Mr. Jaiswal could only table his statement amid din over the threatened suspension of two Telugu Desam Party MPs who had been protesting against the creation of Telangana. Significantly, a united Opposition has been insistent on the Prime Minister giving clarifications on the missing files.

“It would be wrong to classify any file or document as missing at this stage, when an inter-ministerial committee is actively engaged in locating these papers.” Mr. Jaiswal said he had constituted the committee on July 11, 2013 under the chairmanship of the Additional Secretary [Coal] with representatives from the Ministries/Departments of Power, Steel, Industrial Policy & Promotion as well as Coal India Ltd. and Central Mine Planning & Development Institute Ltd. The Minister said the committee’s mandate was to examine and review non-availability of any file or document and suggest appropriate action for locating it. The committee had held three meetings and requested the members to locate the copies of documents/applications in their respective organisations.

“It is possible that many of these papers are available in the records of the various Ministries/ Departments and government bodies such as Ministry of Power, Ministry of Steel, Central Electricity Authority, and Central Mine Planning & Design Institute Limited that were associated in the process of coal block allocations…It is possible that some of these could be located and handed over to the CBI in the next few days.”

So far “nearly 769 files/documents/other papers etc. in original have been handed over to the CBI for investigation comprising as many as 497 files, 163 applications, 40 agenda papers, 10 feedback-form booklets and 33 miscellaneous documents, running into more than 150,000 pages in aggregate. Also, 26 CDs have been handed over to them. As the investigation progresses, if additional documents are called for by the CBI, the Ministry would supply them and, if any document is not readily available, it shall make every effort to trace it.”

Since May 2012, the CBI has registered three preliminary enquiry cases and 13 FIRs on alleged irregularities in allocation of coal blocks made since 1993, covering both the NDA and UPA governments.

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