The Central Bureau of Investigation on Monday arrested the CEO of India’s film censorship board on charges of accepting bribes to clear films even as several filmmakers said that a thriving certificate-for-cash regime had been troubling movie producers for many years.
The CBI said that
the complainant, an authorised agent for censor certification, had approached the board on behalf of the producer of a regional language film for its early clearance.
The arrest of Rakesh Kumar followed that of Sarvesh Jaiswal’s, an advisory panel member of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), who was allegedly caught accepting Rs. 70,000 on Kumar’s behalf from the producer last week.
“I have never been asked for a bribe personally, but I have got many friends telling me innumerable times that it is difficult to get films cleared without greasing palms,” said Mahesh Bhatt, a prominent Bollywood producer.
The CBFC is a statutory body under the ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B), which regulates the public exhibition of films under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act 1952.
Sources say middlemen frequently charge hefty amounts – a part of which is likely paid as bribes to board officials – from producers to obtain clearances for their films. CBFC chairperson Leela Samson said that though the board had started accepting online applications from filmmakers for transparency and to eliminate intermediaries, the system was not fully ready due to lack of money. “Often producers, especially those pressed for time, approach commission agents for out-of-turn clearances,” she said.
Bollywood scriptwriter and poet Javed Akhtar, however, said he did not think corruption was “very rampant” but to eliminate such cases more transparency was required.
“We are waiting for more details on the nature of the offence. But we will take the strictest action and look into the whole issue and how things can be made more transparent,” I&B secretary Bimal Julka told HT.
A national award winning filmmaker from the Northeast told HT, on condition of anonymity, that he paid middlemen to get clearances for his films. “Even though there are four regional censor board offices, I had to go to Mumbai for each of my films,” he said.
The director said that the more edits or cuts the censor board recommends the more bargaining power these agents have. “Filmmakers who don’t compromise on creativity are the most vulnerable,” he added.
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