The CBI’s Mumbai unit has recommended registration of a case against producers of the box-office hit film, Singham Returns, on charges of bribing former chief of the Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC), Rakesh Kumar.
The recommendation was sent to the CBI’s Delhi headquarters in January this year. When contacted, a CBI spokesperson said, “we are probing the case and the investigation is underway”.
A representative and a spokesperson of the film’s producer, Rohit Shetty, did not respond to emails or phone calls.
Singham Returns obtained the censor certificate (CC) on August 8, 2014, a few days before its UAE premier on August 14, 2014.
Kumar was arrested on August 18, 2014, along with his agent, Shripati Mishra, and CBFC advisory panel member Sarvesh Jaiswal on charges of demanding Rs 70,000 as bribe for clearing a regional film, Mor Dauki Ke Bihav. He is currently out on bail.
According to sources, a screening of Singham Returns was held on August 7, 2014, when Kumar reportedly “forced” two of his board members to sign blank forms. The three were part of the screening committee for issuing the CC. Shetty and an authorised agent for the production house, Kishan Palli, were also present at the screening.
The CBI has obtained the statements of the two board members, who have identified their signatures and alleged they were “pressurised” by Kumar to sign the blank forms.
“These forms are required to be filled by the members, suggesting their opinions on various aspects on the point of censorship, and submitted in a sealed envelope. Instead, Kumar coaxed the two members to sign blank forms,” said a CBI officer.
In his statement to the CBI, Palli said Shetty paid over Rs 2 lakh to get the CC. The CBI has claimed that of the 15-20 authorised agents associated with the CBFC, Kumar favoured four-five agents and would only clear films routed through them. Palli was reportedly one of them.
According to Palli’s statement, examined by The Indian Express, Kumar suggested 12 cuts during the screening, and told Shetty he was under tremendous “pressure” from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry not to issue a CC.
“Kumar repeatedly told Shetty that since the movie was hurting certain religious sentiments, he was under tremendous pressure from the ministry. He suggested certain cuts in a song which was shot in the backdrop of a famous dargah in Mumbai. He also suggested changes to a few dialogues, but Shetty insisted that all the cuts should not be enforced. Kumar was paid over Rs 2 lakh to get the CC,” said Palli in his statement.
“When we examined Kumar’s call data records, we did not find a single call from any ministry official who may have sought these changes,” said an official with access to the case details.
“Shetty was desperate to get the CC as the film was scheduled to be released in UAE on August 14, 2014… The CD of the film with the CC was to be sent by August 9,” said the official. “After Kumar received the (bribe) amount, he issued the CC on August 8. Based on this evidence, we sent a report to register a case against the producer and Kumar as there was enough material,” said the official.
“The proposal to register a case was vetted by law officers, but senior officials are yet to decide on the course of action,” said a CBI officer.