India's Censor Board chief Leela Samson has resigned amid a massive row over the film "MSG, the Messenger of God" starring controversial Dera Sachcha Sauda sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, which has been cleared despite objections.
The Censor Board had found the film "not suitable for public viewing." The government has denied any role in the film's approval by the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal.
Ms Samson, an acclaimed classical dancer, has alleged "interference, coercion and corruption", which appeared to be directed at the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.
"Recent cases of interference in the working of the (board) by the ministry, through an 'additional charge' CEO, and corrupt panel members has caused a degradation of values that the members of (the Censor Board) and Chairperson stood for," Ms Samson said in her letter to the ministry.
She has described as "mockery" the green signal to the film, which features the Dera chief as a swashbuckling hero fighting social evils and performing miracles like a god.
"The final call lies with the tribunal and its decision should be accepted by all," Rajyavardhan Rathore, the junior minister for Information and Broadcasting, told reporters today.
"The Censor Board is an independent body and should behave as one. We as a government would like to see that SMS or letter where the chairperson or anyone else was coerced," Mr Rathore said.
After the Censor Board unanimously nixed "MSG's" release, the ministry referred it to the tribunal, which has only asked the producers to drop two words from the film.
A member of the Censor board, Nandini Sardesai, backed Ms Samson's allegations of corruption and said she was concerned that the film was cleared in haste.
"We all saw the movie. It was the collective decision of eight of us that the movie was not suitable for public viewing. Usually the Tribunal takes 15 to 30 days to clear a film, but this case was cleared within 24 hours," Ms Sardesai told NDTV.