The coal ministry is set to admit to the CBI on Friday that it cannot find a clutch of files pertaining to the Coalgate scam. Among the papers that the ministry has not been able to trace are those relating to coal block allocations made to the Jayaswal Neco Group.
Coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal was briefed about the missing files and is learned to be particularly upset about the Jayaswal documents because he has been accused of using his ministerial position to get the blocks allotted to the group. In the past, he has denied this accusation and said he would resign from politics if any link was proved. Given the sensitivity, Jaiswal is preparing to battle a huge political embarrassment.
Despite repeated attempts, HT could not reach Jaiswal.
Staring at a deadline set by the Supreme Court, the ministry of coal is sending a final list of missing files to the CBI by Friday. Until now, the ministry had maintained that it was still trying to locate the files but its reply will now contain a list of ‘untraceable’ ones.
Besides the Jayaswal files, the ministry — which set up a special inquiry team to locate the files — has also not been able to locate documents pertaining to Rajya Sabha MP Vijay Darda, who the CBI believes was instrumental in helping the Jayaswal group. Companies owned by them were raided by the CBI last year.
Till a few days ago, papers pertaining to allocations made to BLA Industries and Jharkhand Ispat were also missing.
The coal ministry deployed over a 100 officials over the weekend to look for the missing papers. One of the officials told HT, “We now face the ignominy of owning up to the fact that papers are indeed untraceable. We have handed over more than 150,000 pages worth of documents to the CBI but the truth is that papers pertaining to sensitive, high-profile cases cannot be found.’’
Once the CBI receives the final reply from the coal ministry, it is free to investigate criminal negligence. As earlier reported by HT, it can also invoke its powers of seizure. Coal ministry officials concede that the investigating agency will seize its dispatch registers — which track the movement of files — to fix accountability for the untraceable documents.