16 January 2015
Last updated at 07:12
Leela Samson (left) also accused the board of “corruption and coercion”
India’s censor board chief has resigned after reports that a film rejected by her panel has been cleared for release.
Leela Samson quit after an appeals board approved the film Messenger of God, directed by and starring guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
Ms Samson-led Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) had found the film unsuitable for the public, reportedly because it promoted superstition.
She also accused the state-run CBFC of “corruption and coercion”.
Ms Samson took over in August after the board’s former chief was arrested on charges of corruption.
Messenger of God was cleared by the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal after Ms Samson’s panel rejected it.
Ms Samson said the apparent clearance of the film was “a mockery” of her organisation.
“My resignation is final,” she told the Press Trust of India news agency.
A CBFC member, Nandini Sardesai, said she was concerned the film was cleared in haste.
Messenger of God is directed by a popular guru
“We all saw the movie. It was the collective decision of eight of us that the movie was not suitable for public viewing,” Ms Sardesai told NDTV news channel.
“Usually the Tribunal takes 15 to 30 days to clear a film, but this case was cleared within 24 hours.”
The Mid-Day newspaper quoted Ms Sardesai as saying that they had rejected the film because it “promotes superstition and blind faith”.
The guru’s website mentions Messenger of God as a “movie which aims to spread social awareness in the society”.
“While the whole story depicts the truth, yet action, suspense and drama are also being added to make it more interesting,” the website says.
Ms Samson said she had resigned because of “interference, coercion and corruption” of the government-appointed members and officers of the board.
Last August, the former president of the board Rakesh Kumar was arrested for allegedly soliciting a bribe from a film producer and removed from the position.
Films cannot be publicly exhibited in India unless they have been certified by the board, which is based in Mumbai and has nine regional offices.
According to its website, the board has a legally empowered mission to “ensure healthy entertainment, recreation and education to the public”.
Its approval process can be slow and laborious, with multiple rounds of cuts, sometimes demanded before one of its four certificates is granted.