New Delhi: There were more resignations in the Censor Board with nine members putting in their papers protesting alleged government interference, a charge rejected by I&B minister Arun Jaitley saying the government maintains an "arm's length distance" from functioning of the Board.
Jaitley further said, "It is regrettable that the UPA appointees have decided to politicise routine issues" while reacting to the resignations of some of the members.
After the resignation of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) Chairperson Leela Samson was accepted, the Board was reduced to 23-members, according to officials. However, with nine more members quitting, the film censor body would be further reduced to 14 members, setting the stage for revamp of the body.
In their joint letter of resignation, the members including Arundhati Nag, Ira Bhaskar, Lora Prabhu, Pankaj Sharma and Rajeev Masand said the events that led to Samson resigning from her position were merely the "proverbial last straw".
"It is our firm position that given the cavalier and dismissive manner in which the CBFC is treated by the government, it is impossible to perform this duty with even a modicum of efficacy or autonomy," they added.
Samson, who headed the statutory body under the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, alleged "coercion", "corruption" and "interference" by the government in its functioning. Her resignation came amid controversy surrounding the clearance of film "Messenger of God" featuring Dera Saccha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh by the film tribunal.
However, Jaitley hit back saying, "At no point either of us (he and his junior minister Rathore) have communicated with any Member of the Censor Board or desired that any bureaucrat to do the same. I have not met or spoken to any Member of the Censor Board nor authorised anyone to do the same. It is the UPA appointed Central Censor Board which has since continued."
"If there is any corruption, the UPA appointees have themselves to blame. I only wished that the fact of corruption had been communicated even once by the Chairperson of the Censor Board to me. The non-functional Chairperson never did so. The charge that meetings of the Censor Board are not being held is a Self Condemnation," the minister said.
Jaitley accused the outgoing Chairperson of Censor Board Leela Samson of being "non-functional" as she herself has said no meetings of the Board took place and cited unused Board funds returned to the Ministry.
"The charge that meetings of the Censor Board are not being held is a self condemnation. The meetings are to be convened not by the Minister or the Secretary but by the Chairperson. If the meetings are not being convened, it is for those responsible for non-functioning who must blame themselves," he said.
On corruption, he said "if there is any corruption, the UPA appointees have themselves to blame. I only wished that the fact of corruption had been communicated even once by the Chairperson of the Censor Board to me. The non-functional Chairperson never did so."
"I have not met or spoken to any member of the Censor Board nor authorised anyone to do the same," he said.