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Censor board CEO arrested

Mumbai, Aug. 18: The CBI today arrested Rakesh Kumar, the CEO of the censor board who was under the scanner for allegedly demanding a bribe of Rs 70,000 to clear a regional language film from Chhattisgarh.

Kumar, 45, was questioned for a few days before being formally arrested, agency officials said. CBI spokesperson Kanchan Prasad confirmed the arrest. “He has been arrested as part of an ongoing anti-corruption investigation involving the censor board,” Prasad said.

Another CBI officer said Kumar was taken into custody around 8.15pm tonight at the agency’s Mumbai office and would be produced in court tomorrow.

“Kumar was arrested after we found his involvement in bribes involving more films,” the officer added.

Kumar — a 1997-batch officer of the Indian Railway Personnel Service (IRPS) on deputation to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) or the censor board — had taken charge as CEO in January.

Kumar came under the CBI lens last week after an agent approached the CBI with a complaint that another agent, Shripati Mishra, had demanded a bribe of Rs 70,000 for a certificate to Chhattisgarhi film Mor Dauki Ke Bihav (my girlfriend’s marriage), whose producers wanted the clearance urgently as the movie was to release on August 15.

The agency had on Thursday arrested Mishra and Sarvesh Jaiswal, an advisory member of the CBFC, on charges of demanding the bribe on behalf of Kumar. That was followed by a search of Kumar’s residence.

“Kumar would delay issuing certificates unless the producers approached the board through select agents and put pressure on filmmakers who had scheduled their releases. His agents would then demand bribes from hapless producers, who paid up,” a CBI officer said.

Kumar had been at loggerheads with the industry soon after he took over in January. He had in an interview accused Bollywood filmmakers of “pushing the envelope” on foul language and adult scenes, and cited examples of how his wife and even his five-year-old daughter found the content offensive.

In the interview, Kumar had said that he and his wife had walked out of the Hrithik Roshan-starrer Agneepath after finding the violence in the film repulsive, while his five year old daughter had found “too much love” in Shuddh Desi Romance, which revolves around live-in relationships among the young.

Kumar had also slammed the language of Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur, a box-office success, and defended the wider ban on smoking scenes challenged by the filmmaker in court.

Kumar had been functioning as the de facto board chief after danseuse Leela Samson resigned as chairperson. The information and broadcasting ministry — which oversees the board — had not appointed any replacement for Samson.