In what appears to be an attempt to save face, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) has sent 17 members of the Central Bureau of Film Certification Board a letter informing them that their term has been extended. However, the move comes nearly 45 days after their terms expired.
The letter — a copy of which is with The Indian Express — informs the members that their term has been extended from July 15. The communication, signed by Nirupama Kotru, Director (Films), I&B Ministry, however, is post-dated to September 2. It also doesn’t specify the period of extension, only that it is “until further notice”. CBFC chairperson Leela Samson confirmed the same, adding, “The extension is an interim move until a new board is instituted.”
The board members, whose original term was till June 30, had in the same month received a letter stating that their tenure had been extended till July 15. Once that period was over, there was no communication between the I&B Ministry and the said members, who had deemed their term over.
After censor board CEO Rakesh Kumar’s arrest last month on charges of accepting bribe to certify films, the ministry has been facing flak for neglecting CBFC. With severe backlog in certification work due to fewer board members, Kumar is said to have exploited the situation to his benefit. Therefore, the move on part of the I&B Ministry is perhaps intended to ensure that on paper, it does not appear as if the CBFC at any point was short-staffed.
The letter, however, has been received with mixed reactions from the members. Many are upset that the I&B Ministry has handed them an extension without consultation. Some are unwilling to accept the extension and intend to refuse the position. “How can they term it an extension when there was a clean break after our tenure ended on July 15? One can have taken up other assignments and made commitments,” quipped a member who did not wish to be named. Another said, “The treatment meted out to the board by the I&B Ministry under Congress had upset us all. Most of us were happy that our term had come to a close.”
National Award-winning director from Kerala, Shaji Karun, seconds his colleagues. However, he has decided to resume his position on the board “in order to fulfil his commitment to cinema”. He agrees that the I&B Ministry under the BJP-led government has sent the letter to salvage the situation on paper.
Rakesh Kumar has been suspended and Children Film Society India CEO Sharavan Kumar has been given additional responsibility of handling the post.