As the role of many officials, both former and present, of the Coal, Steel, Power, and Mines Ministries in allocation of coal blocks is likely to be investigated, the Coal Ministry is dragging its feet on requesting the CBI to file an FIR and open a parallel probe into the missing files.

The Ministry’s failure to act runs counter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s assurance to Parliament in the monsoon session that if the files were not found, the government would seek an FIR because it “has nothing to hide.”

The CBI has made it clear that it is not in a position to file an FIR, because a request has to come from the nodal Ministry. “The Coal Ministry will have to give us in writing [that we] file an FIR in the case of missing files and documents. It is yet to do so despite repeated… reminders from us. This raises a lot of suspicion about the Coal Ministry’s intentions as a number of former and present senior officials will be questioned over the allocation of coal blocks as well as the missing files,” top CBI sources told The Hindu .

CBI officials feel that since crucial documents pertaining to allotment of mines to private companies and big corporate houses and important details of the Screening Committee meeting have gone missing, an investigation can be opened into the role of senior officials of the Coal, Steel and Power Ministries and they will be named before the Supreme Court or in the FIRs.

“The files cannot just disappear into thin air. There is certainly something very suspicious about the whole issue. I am sure some of the corporate houses have had a role in the missing files from various Ministries and that is what is not being probed,” a former Minister in UPA-II and someone associated with the Coalgate case told The Hindu, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Supreme Court has indicated that the Coal Ministry should file an FIR, so that proper investigations could be carried out. However, the Ministry has not done so. “This is sending a very wrong signal because there is a growing suspicion that the Ministry and the government are trying to shield people in high places as the Coalgate scam has the involvement of two high-profile Congress MPs who are facing the CBI probe,” a senior official said.

However, another official said the Ministry was waiting for the Supreme Court to issue an order for filing an FIR.