Censor board 'corruption': CBI lodges FIR to probe bribery charges levelled by actor Vishal

The CBI has lodged the FIR against private persons Merlin Menaga, Jeeja Ramdas, Rajan M and unidentified public servants of the CBFC

By Newsmeter Network  Published on  5 Oct 2023 10:20 AM GMT
Censor board corruption: CBI lodges FIR to probe bribery charges levelled by actor Vishal

New Delhi: The CBI has lodged an FIR against three persons and unidentified officials of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) on the allegation of actor Vishal that he had to pay Rs 6.5 lakh to get a certificate for the Hindi-dubbed version of his film "Mark Antony", officials said on Thursday.

The action was followed by searches at four locations in Mumbai, including the premises of the FIR-named accused, on Wednesday.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has lodged the FIR against private persons Merlin Menaga, Jeeja Ramdas, Rajan M and unidentified public servants of the CBFC.

Vishal said bribe was demanded to issue the CBFC certificate for his film within 24 hours.

"Mark Antony", a sci-fi film directed by Adhik Ravichandran, was released in theatres on September 28.

The CBFC certificate is mandatory for screening a film in India.

The Tamil Superstar requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde to look into corruption in the CBFC, where a woman official had allegedly demanded Rs 6.5 lakh from him for issuing certification the same day. The official had allegedly said it was a common practice at the CBFC.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur had ordered an immediate enquiry into the allegations.

"It was alleged that during the month of September 2023, a private person entered a conspiracy with others to obtain a bribe of Rs 7 lakh and to get the required censor certificate from CBFC, Mumbai for a movie dubbed in Hindi," a CBI spokesperson said.

The CBI FIR alleged that Menaga, who worked as a mediator, had initially demanded the bribe on behalf of CBFC-Mumbai officials, the amount of which was reduced to Rs 6.54 lakh after negotiations.

"... she allegedly accepted Rs 6.54 lakh as bribe on behalf of CBFC, Mumbai officials in two bank accounts of the two other accused. Thereafter, on September 26, 2023, the required certificate was allegedly issued by CBFC, Mumbai for said movie dubbed in Hindi," the spokesperson said.

Menaga also received Rs 20,000 in her bank account from the account of a private company as coordinating fees for herself, the agency alleged.

In a post on X, Vishal said the production company was asked to pay Rs 3 lakh first just for the screening, while the remaining amount of Rs 3.5 lakh was for the certificate.

The actor had said a woman official told his team that it was a common practice at the CBFC, where filmmakers would pay money for receiving the censor clearance.

"#Corruption being shown on silver screen is fine. But not in real life. Can't digest. Especially in govt offices. And even worse happening in #CBFC Mumbai office. Had to pay 6.5 lacs for my film #MarkAntonyHindi version. 2 transactions. 3 lakhs for screening and 3.5 lakhs for certificate.

"Never faced this situation ever in my career. Had no option but to pay the concerned mediator #Menaga coz too much at stake since movie released today. Bringing this to the notice of Hon Chief Minister of Maharashtra and my Hon PM Narendra Modiji. Doing this is not for me but for future producers. NOT HAPPENING. My hard earned money gone for corruption??? No way. Evidence down for all to hear. Hope truth prevails as always (sic)," Vishal posted on the microblogging website on September 28 along with a video message.

In a statement, the Indian Film and Television Directors' Association (IFTDA) had expressed concern over the allegations made against CBFC officials and demanded a CBI enquiry in the matter.

According to a senior official, Thakur has directed Information and Broadcasting Secretary Apurva Chandra to ensure maximum utilisation of technology and the rolling out of a faceless system on the lines of the Income Tax Office for slotting of films to be scheduled for screening for certification officials.

Inputs from PTI

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