Japanese judicial officials say that records related to disbandment orders for two religious groups have been destroyed by the district courts that were storing them.
One of the groups was the Aum Shinrikyo cult that carried out the deadly gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in the 1990s.
The records outline proceedings under the religious corporation law. A court decides to give an order to disband a religious entity upon request by administrative agencies.
Aum Shinrikyo was ordered to disband as a religious organization for violating the law and "harming public welfare significantly."
The records include the evidence the two sides put forward in the court proceedings and the documents on their claims. The records were stored at the Tokyo District Court and the Wakayama District Court in western Japan. All records were found to have been destroyed.
Supreme Court rules stipulate that records for such civil procedures be kept for 5 years after the completion of the trial except for high-profile cases. Such cases are meant to be designated for "special preservation" and stored permanently. The two district courts say the cases of these two religious groups had not been designated for preservation.
A prominent journalist who studies trial records says the impact of the action is immeasurable.
Egawa Shoko says it now will be impossible to look into these past cases and verify information.