Under attack over missing files relating to coal block allocation, government today said in the Rajya Sabha that the issue was being looked into and no stone would be left unturned in tracing the missing documents sought by CBI.
The opposition forced three adjournments before lunch over the issue, asking Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal to recuse himself from replying and demanding that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should make a statement.
They said "propriety" demands Jaiswal should abstain as the missing files reportedly relate to a beneficiary of coal block allocation who is linked to the Minister.
Jaiswal sought to mollify the opposition as he said he was ready to face any punishment if found guilty of the allegations.
At the same time, he asked Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley as to what punishment he would undergo if the case was otherwise.
"All efforts are being made to locate documents which are not readily available...My Ministry would leave no stone unturned in tracing and providing the documents sought by the CBI," he said, adding a total of 769 files and documents running into 1.5 lakh pages have been handed over to the investigating agency.
Raising the issue earlier, Jaitley said there are media reports that one of the beneficiaries of the coal block allocation was some body with whom the Coal Minister was related.
"If files relating to that allocation are missing, should he be making a statement on those files. I want to know from the Chair that on account of this conflict of interest, should he make the statement...If not direct, it is a case of indirect involvement," said Jaitley.
"Propriety demands that the Minister should voluntarily not speak...it should be the Prime Minister who should speak," said Najma Heptulla (BJP), asking the Chair to give a ruling in this regard.
Ravi Shankar Prasad (BJP) said the Minister should "at least voluntarily recuse himself" from replying to the query on missing files.
Supporting the demand, Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) said, "The House must know how these files are missing. It is appropriate that the Minister then incharge should make the statement how the files went missing."
Replying to the opposition attack, Jaiswal conceded that some files are missing and hence an inter-Ministerial Committee headed by an additional secretary has been set up to look into the issue and any action will be taken only after its report.
"The mandate given to the Committee is to examine and review non-availability of files/documents and suggest appropriate action," he said, adding the Committee has held two meetings and documents are being located.
Amid slogan shouting by BJP, Jaiswal said some documents belonging to a period prior to 2004 are missing and alleged who had the interest in getting the files to pre-2004 period missing while pointing the needle of suspicion at NDA regime.
Earlier Jaitley alleged that "files don't disappear, they are made to disappear" and said, "the files contain evidences of arbitrary allotments...the evidence of crime are in those files...if files disappear, the possibility of their escaping the punishment for a crime is obviously there." He said destruction of evidence in a case being probed by CBI and monitored by Supreme Court is in itself a crime. "Has the Minister registered any FIR? Have you taken any legal recourse," he asked.
There was uproar by the entire Opposition when Derek O'Brien (TMC) quoted a Congress spokesperson as saying, "the files are being re-written" and BJP raised slogans of "shame, shame".