Censor Board Chief Leela Samson Decides To Quit

16/01/2015 8:03 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST
A cinema-goer collects her ticket from a counter outside the premises of the Anup Touring Talkies tent cinema at a ground in central Mumbai on April 20, 2013. To mark 100 years of Indian Cinema, a Marathi film 'Touring Talkies' is being screened in a makeshift tent theatre just like the days of yore, in its pre-multiplex and pre-single screen glory dating back 50 years. The tents, keeping in mind modern audiences, will have plush seating, air conditioning and popcorn and cola alongside fresh sugar-cane juice, roasted groundnuts and gram and pickle and other tit-bits. The cinema will screen four shows per day for a week. The idea of touring talkies was the brainchild of the doyne of Indian cinema, Dadasaheb Phalke, after he saw the British watching movies in tents. The touring cinema would travel through rural India and screen movies in makeshifts tents. At present, one can only find these talkies - whose sweltering tents and basic facilities contrast with the plush, air-conditioned multiplexes springing up in Indian cities, during Jatras (village fairs) in the interiors of the state. AFP PHOTO/ INDRANIL MUKHERJEE (Photo credit should read INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images)

Amidst reports that controversial film 'Messenger of God' featuring Dera Saccha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in lead role has been cleared by the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), Censor Board chief Leela Samson tonight said she has decided to resign.

Asked if she was aware of media reports that the nod has been given by FCAT to the film's screening, Samson told PTI that "I hear so. Nothing in writing yet. It is a mockery of Central Board of Film Certification. My resignation is final. Have informed the (I&B) Secretary".

There was, however, no official word on the decision, if any, of FCAT. The Censor Board had referred the issue of clearance to 'Messenger of God' to FCAT. The film was slated to hit the screens on Friday.

Asked why she has decided to quit, she did not specifically refer to the reported clearance to the film but said the reasons cited are alleged "interference, coercion and corruption of panel members and officers of the organization who are appointed by the ministry."

According to Samson, "...having to manage an organization whose Board has not met for over nine months as the ministry had no funds to permit the meeting of members."

She said the term of all the members and the Chairperson of the Censor Board "are over. But since the new government failed to appoint a new Board and Chairperson, a few were given extension and asked to carry on till the procedure was completed."

"However, recent cases of interference in the working of the CBFC by the ministry, through an 'additional charge' CEO, and corrupt panel members has caused a degradation of those values that the members of this Board of CBFC and Chairperson stood for," Samson alleged.

Meanwhile, a spokesman of Sirsa (Haryana)-based Dera Sachcha Sauda said "as per our information, FCAT has cleared the movie for release. But a written order is awaited."

On January 12, Samson had said "it has been unanimously decided to refer the film to FCAT".

The Dera spokesman said the movie "is against drugs and there is nothing objectionable" in it.

The Union Home Ministry has been concerned that the release of the film may evoke protests from some quarters as certain Sikh organisations have been opposing the movie.

The Home Ministry had sent an advisory to states that "various Sikh organisations and individuals are opposing the movie on the ground that its release would disturb the communal harmony and law and order. They also opine that glorification of DSS chief, facing serious criminal cases, should not be allowed".

The Home Ministry said tension between DSS followers and Sikhs always remain a potential flash point in view of ongoing rivalry between Sikhs and the Dera followers.

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