A CAG report severely criticises the movie certification body for fabrication of documents and showing bias while issuing film certificates. Anand Mishra reports
A Comptroller and Auditor General report has slammed the Censor Board for flouting several norms and converting 172 ‘A’ category certified films into ‘UA’ category films and 166 films of ‘UA’ category into ‘U’ category films during 2012-15 without taking any law or provision into account, according to an RTI query.
The CAG under the head ‘Inspection Report on Account Maintained by the office of CBFC, Mumbai’ for the period from 1st October 2013 to 31st March 2015, has slammed the Board for its lackadaisical approach in several areas including incomplete data entry work of historical records despite incurring a huge sum for the purpose of digitisation of CBFC work.
In its 70-page reply furnished in response to an RTI query by activist Vihar Durve, the CAG said that during test check of CBFC records it observed that CBFC has converted 172 ‘A’ category certified films into ‘UA’ category films and 166 films of ‘UA’ category was converted into ‘U’ category films during 2012-15 without taking any law or provision into account which led to irregular conversion of films.
CAG also noted that approximately 4.1 lakh entries for censor certificates and 60 lakh pages of feature film files were yet to be digitised despite incurring huge sum for the purpose.
“There has been no revision of certification fees and cess after the lapse of more than six years and 12 years respectively. It has mentioned in its report that the CBFC got Rs 14 crore (approx) as certification fees from 2011 to 2013 while it received Rs 5.5 crore as cess in the same period, says the report.
CAG has also found that as per official records two movies naming ‘Gabriel’ and ‘Three Can Play That Game’ were examined by J S Mahamuni and S G Mane on February 2009 and February 2009 respectively.
However, when CBFC issued the certificates it showed that movies were examined by V K Chawak, secretary to the chairperson, on March 30, 2009 despite that these were not re-applied for re-examination.
Terming this as a scam and naming it as ‘Censor Gate’, Durve strongly criticised the Board.
Censor Board CEO Shravan Kumar could not be contacted as he was in Bengaluru. Chairman Pahlaj Nihlani, however said, “I am not in receipt of the inspection report. These happenings took place quite long back, when I was not in-charge, but I will definitely make sure that such irregularities do not take place in the future anymore.”
Another official from the Board, requesting anonymity said, “It is merely an inspection report, everything would be clarified when we file our reply to CAG.”
However, Teena Sharma, another activist in censorship issues who has filed a PIL in Delhi court said, “Such reports will continue till the time the information and broadcasting ministry doesn’t pay heed to our voice.”
In recent years too, the Board has been hit with controversies when its topmost officers were found involving in wrong practises.
Former CEO Rakesh Kumar was arrested by CBI for allegedly demanding Rs 70,000 as bribe for clearing a film. His predecessor Pankaja Thakur was also involved in a series of controversies including that she rated a film directed by her close relative despite knowing that it was a case of “conflict of interest”.
Image: The CAG report also reveals that 166 films of ‘UA’ category were converted into ‘U’ category films during 2012-15 without taking any law or provision into account. Photograph: Bruno Vincent/Getty Images