After Leela Samson, CBFC Member Ira Bhaskar Decides to Quit

New Delhi
After Leela Samson, CBFC Member Ira Bhaskar Decides to Quit

After censor board chief Leela Samson, another board member Ira Bhaskar has decided to resign over the state of affairs in the running of the statutory body.

Bhaskar, a professor of cinema studies in Jawaharlal Nehru University, said she will send in her resignation by tonight.

"I have decided to resign by tonight. My resignation has to do with Leelaji's decision to step down. We were working together and as a group we had discussed about resigning earlier but we held on as she attempted to help the ministry in running the board.

"But things were clearly not in order. There was no meeting in the past one year though it was mandatory for board members to meet every three months. The last meeting was in January 2014. The censor board CEO said there were no funds to hold the meetings so the board is clearly not required," Bhaskar told PTI.

Samson, who headed the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), a statutory body under the information and broadcasting ministry, since 2011, resigned amid controversy surrounding the overnight clearance of controversial film "Messenger of God" featuring Dera Saccha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

The censor board had referred the issue of clearance to "Messenger of God" to FCAT. The film, which was slated to hit the screens on Friday, is now releasing on Sunday.

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

Bhaskar said her resignation is part of a collective decision that some of the members had taken earlier as they were not happy with the functioning of the board.

"We were not happy with the developments that have taken place, issues related to the way the office was functioning. It was upsetting... A board member is only valid and functional if the board is an active board. If it is not allowed to be active then we don't matter.

"The only reason we did not resign last year was because our chairperson (Samson) was attempting to continue. She has a sense of responsibility. She felt that she needed to be present and make decisions and help the situations. But she was not allowed to function," she said.

According to Bhaskar, since there is no chairperson, their membership is no longer valid.

"I think we will release a joint statement tomorrow, besides a personal letter," she added.

Another board member Nandini Sardesai said they went by the Cinematograph Act in declaring "Messenger of God" unfit for public viewing but it was cleared by FCAT within 24 hours.

"I think that was the last straw (the clearance of MSG by Film Certification Appellate Tribunal). Procedure normally is that the film is seen at three levels. There was no consensus at the examining committee level, so it came to what is the second step which is the revising committee, which I chair as a board member...," she said.

"We went strictly by the Cinematograph Act. We saw the film in its entirety and found it unsuitable for public viewing. That was the collective decision of all of us. As per the procedure it is up to the producer to go to Delhi and ask for a tribunal hearing which normally takes 15 to 30 days.

"This has happened within 24 hours, a tribunal has been set up and it cleared the film. That is what, I think is rankling Leela," Sardesai added.

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