Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was on Wednesday hauled over the coals on the issue of missing files in the coal block allocation scam with the BJP seeking his deposition before the CBI, which the investigating officer in the case has reportedly suggested.
The main opposition raked up the issue in Parliament, got both the Houses adjourned for some time, getting support from other parties and forcing an impromptu discussion on the issue.
Later, in a joint statement, the Leaders of Opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley accused the government of trying to sabotage the investigation in the case and demanded that it reveal why the prime minister was not being questioned and an FIR not lodged on the "stolen" files.
Terming as "very serious" the issue of files going missing in the alleged scam amounting to a whopping Rs. 1.86 lakh crore, Opposition members said in Parliament that there were apprehensions that the government has a "lot to hide" and the case may meet a "dead end".
In the Lok Sabha, Swaraj said she did not believe that the files had just gone missing and contended that it was a case of theft and demanded immediate registration of an FIR.
"It is a matter of theft. That is why there should be an immediate FIR," she said, adding "The government should tell us by when an FIR will be lodged."
Swaraj said in case the government did not register the FIR, it would be construed that it has much to hide.
Targeting the prime minister, she said he is "under cloud" as he held the coal portfolio between 2006 and 2009.
"If the prime minister wants to see himself come clean on this issue, he should himself come forward and offer to depose before the CBI," she said.
In the Rajya Sabha, Jaitley said, "Documentary evidence is being destroyed and oral examination is not being permitted. Therefore, the entire result is that this case may lead to a dead end."
Jaitley sought to know from the government how the investigations will proceed in the absence of documentary evidence and feared that with evidence destroyed and oral examination not being carried out, the country may turn out to be a net loser of Rs. 1.86 lakh crore Swaraj's demand for immediate filing of an FIR was supported by various other parties like SP, CPI-M, CPI, AIADMK and TDP which too wanted a proper probe.
In their joint statement, Swaraj and Jaitley referred to a newspaper report which quoted CBI official KR Chaurasia as stating that the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh "requires to be questioned" as he held the coal portfolio from 2006-09.
"The coal block allocation scam is becoming murkier and murkier.... The consequence of this (Chaurasia's demand) is critical to the investigation. A substantially large number of files/documents/applications connected with the coal block allocation scam have disappeared. The documentary evidence is missing," they said.
In such a scenario where "documentary evidence has disappeared", BJP said CBI will have to be dependent on the oral evidence which includes examination of those likely to be in the know of relevant facts.
"The oral examination is not being permitted. The consequences of this will be critical and adverse to the investigation. It seems that the effort of the UPA government is to sabotage the investigation and render it ineffective," they said.
The party demanded that government register an FIR on the case of stolen files and explain whey this has not yet been done.
The main opposition charged that the coal blocks were allocated in an "arbitrary" manner and at virtually no cost. Favourites of the Congress were chosen for this and ruling party leaders acted as name-lenders.
"The prime minister acting as the coal minister and the prime minister's office approved the list of favourites arbitrarily chosen," BJP alleged.