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Censor Board Chief Resigns Amid Controversy
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Amid reports that the 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 said she has decided to resign.
Asked if she was aware of media reports that the nod has been given by the tribunal to the film's screening, Samson told PTI: "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".
The Censor Board had referred the issue of clearance to "Messenger of God" to the tribunal. 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 terms of all the members and the chairperson of the board are over, but as the new government has "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 said.
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 flashpoint in view of ongoing rivalry between Sikhs and the Dera followers.