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Board mum on RBD scene

Aamir's heroics would've hit the screen if the ministry had woken up a little early, writes Chetan Chauhan.

india Updated: May 03, 2006 15:52 IST

Aamir Khan’s heroics astride a horse in Rang De Basanti may not have been limited to posters alone but allowed to hit the silver screen had the Ministry of Environment and Forest realised sooner that the Animal Welfare Board of India is not authorised to certify the depiction of animals in movies. That is the prerogative of the ministry itself.

A week before the film’s release in January, the board withdrew its NOC forcing producer Ronnie Screwvala to edit the scenes of Khalsa fights on horseback.

But about a month ago, the environment ministry realised that the power to certify the use of animal is vested with it and not the board. The matter came to light during the ministry’s implementation of a Mumbai High Court order of August 2005.

Last year, acting on a petition filed by PETA, the court had directed the board to act strictly in accordance with the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, the Performing Animals (Registration) Rules, 2001 and the Cinematograph (Certification) Rules, 1983. It also directed the board to process all applications within two weeks and certify that no cruelty was caused to animals during shooting.

What neither the court nor the ministry knew was that in 2002 the then Union environment minister Maneka Gandhi had withdrawn the powers of certification from the board and vested it with the ministry.

The reason attributed for the decision was that the board didn't have the wherewithal for physical inspections to enforce Performing Animals (Registration) Rules, 2001. However, in the absence of any formal communication to the board, the board continued to certify depiction of animals in hundreds of movies.

Officials now say that the decision is being communicated to the Animal Welfare Board.