Top Bollywood producers paid 'bribe' to Censor Board CEO to save 'item numbers'

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 20 2014, 03:35am hrs
Censor board bribeThe common Censor Board chief's threat was to chop off item songs, made producers frantic: Official (Bollywood Hungama)
Censor Board's threat of snipping item songs apparently prompted some top film producers to cough up bribe to Board CEO Rakesh Kumar who was arrested by CBI on Monday under graft charges.

Agency sources said during the examination of Kumar and two others including an agent and an advisory panel member of the Central Board of Film Certification, it surfaced that some top names in the Bollywood had apparently paid money to get their movies cleared in time.

CBI is independently verifying whether these claims are correct and carry any evidentiary value, the sources said.

"The common threat was to chop off item songs. Besides, clearance was delayed till last moment which made producers frantic and cough out illegal gratification to get the certificate. Not releasing movies on time can result in huge damages," a senior official said here on the condition of anonymity.

During the questioning of the three accused it emerged that producers of several recently released movies, in which top of the line stars were screened, were among those who had to pay to get their films cleared with item songs, the sources said.

The agency had arrested Kumar from Mumbai yesterday for allegedly demanding Rs 70,000 as bribe for clearing a regional movie from Chhattisgarh. He was produced before the Special CBI court in Mumbai which sent him to three-day CBI remand for further questioning.

The sources said the present case deals only with the Chhattisgarh movie as no other producer or director of Bollywood has come forward with any complaint against Kumar.

The agency had searched his house on Thursday and arrested agent Shripati Mishra and advisory panel member of the Censor Board Sarvesh Jaiswal.

They were caught while taking the alleged bribe on Kumar's behalf, the sources said.

They said an authorised agent for censor certification had approached CBI alleging that Mishra had been demanding Rs 70,000 on behalf of Kumarfor issuing the censor certificate for regional language film from Chhattisgarh "Mor Dauki Ke Bihav".

An IndianRailways Personnel Officer, Kumar joined as CEO of CBFC in January.

The sources said producers of the film had wanted an urgent certificate as the date of the release of the movie was on August 15.

Kumar used to demand Rs 1.5 lakh for screening a film

The CBI today said that all the movies cleared by the Censor Board CEO Rakesh Kumar, arrested in a bribery case, are under the scanner, even as a local court remanded him in CBI custody till August 22.

"All the movies that were cleared after Kumar took over as the CEO of the Central Board of Film Certification in January, are under our scanner (for any irregularity)," a CBI official said today.

Kumar, who was arrested yesterday for allegedly demanding Rs 70,000 as bribe for clearing a regional movie, was sent to CBI custody till August 22 by special CBI judge A D Karanjkar.

The investigative agency told the court that it was a very "deep conspiracy" and there was a need to get to the bottom of it.

"Kumar was habitual in collecting money through agents," a CBI counsel told the court.

"It needs to be investigated for whom he issued the certificates (at different point of time) and we also need to get the names of producers, directors and agents," he added.

The court was also told that Kumar used to issue certificates out of turn and documents seized from him contain incriminating substance. "Thirty three costly watches of expensive brands such as Rolex, Rado, etc were found at his home and he did not disclose how it came to him," the CBI said.

It also told the court that Kumar used to demand Rs 1.5 lakh for screening a film in 3 to 4 days; Rs 25,000 for screening in 7 to 8 days and Rs 15,000 for a short film.

"Shripati Mishra (one of the arrested agents) has told the CBI that for 5 to 6 times he paid Kumar amount ranging from Rs 35, 000 to Rs 1.2 lakh collectively worth Rs 5 lakh. The payment used to be delivered at his residence, office or outside as directed by Kumar," CBI told the court.

The agency also said that for the last two months, Sarvesh Jaiswal, arrested advisory member of the board, was collecting money on behalf of Kumar and Mishra had paid Jaiswal around Rs 3.5 lakh.

The CBI also said that, according to Jaiswal, in June, Kumar had told him that Mishra was not giving him money for the certificate issued to him and asked Jaiswal to collect the money from Mishra.

"Kumar had told Jaiswal that if Mishra does not pay then he will not issue certificate to the films submitted through Mishra," CBI told the court.

Another Censor Board representative Krishna Palli told the investigative agency that he has also been collecting the money as "speed money" as directed by Kumar.

"Palli has collected around Rs 18-25 lakh in the last eight months on behalf of Kumar," CBI told the court.

However, defence lawyers Harshad Ponda and Mahesh Vaswani told the court that custodial interrogation of Kumar was not necessary. "All the money that is alleged to have been recovered is disclosed to the Income Tax department in tax returns," Ponda said.

An Indian Railways Personnel Officer, Kumar had joined as the CEO of CBFC in January this year. He was arrested in Mumbai last evening as he came under the agency scanner after two middlemen allegedly receiving bribe on his behalf were arrested on Thursday.