Pratibha was given a transfer order months before her tenure was to officially end. The order came days after she refused certification to a pro-RSS film on the Emergency.

Arbitrary transfer for rejecting pro-RSS film Kerala CBFC officer gets court stayImage for representation only
news Law Sunday, January 21, 2018 - 14:52

A Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) official from Kerala, A Pratibha, was transferred out of her post suddenly on January 5 – several months before her tenure was supposed to officially end in October this year. The transfer back to the Indian Economic Service came just days after the Kerala CBFC was embroiled in a controversy over their denial of certification to a pro-RSS film – 21 Months of Hell. While Pratibha has denied that her transfer has anything to do with the film, she has however called the order ‘arbitrary’, and has challenged the transfer with the Central Administrative Tribunal.

The tribunal has now granted a stay order on the transfer of the official, Pratibha confirmed, speaking to TNM.

Pratibha, who assumed office in October 2014, moved a petition with the Ernakulam branch of the Central Administrative Tribunal, saying that she was removed from the post months before she completed her tenure. Pratibha was appointed to the post in 2014 for a period of four years, and her tenure would ideally have come to an end only in October 2018.

She was replaced by V Parvathy, the deputy director of Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity. In her petition, the former has alleged that selection procedure was not followed in the latter's appointment. It was "highly illegal" and "arbitrary", directing Pratibha to assist Parvathy, who is "very much junior" to her, the petition stated.

Pratibha sought for her transfer order to be stayed and asked the tribunal to give directions to the central government so that she can continue in the post.

The controversy

While Pratibha herself has denied that the transfer had anything to do with 21 Months of Hell, there is criticism in Kerala of the transfer order – considering it came right after she refused to certify a film that is pro-RSS and supports the views of the current regime at the Centre. Critics have further questioned why no action was taken against Pratibha, who has refused to certify other films in the past, including Ka Bodyscapes and Kathakali, which go against the puritanical view of society.

While the makers of Ka Bodyscapes and Kathakali had called out the Kerala CBFC for their irrational decision, there was no action taken against the board officials in those cases. However, in the case of 21 Months of Hell, the Kerala state BJP cried foul over the denial of certification.

In a statement, state BJP President Kummanam Rajasekharan said, “The censor board in Kerala and some of its members have taken the stand that permission cannot be given to the documentary that portrays RSS heroically. It is interesting that such a thing happened even when a campaign is being unleashed that those who oppose the RSS are silenced during the Modi regime.”

“The censor board has not provided a reason to Yadu Vijayakrishnan for denying permission for his documentary. This is fascism. This is intolerance. The BJP is extending all support to Yadhu Vijayakrishnan in his fight against fascism,” he further said, on the same day that Pratibha got her transfer order.

However, speaking to the media after her removal, Pratibha denied that refusing certification to 21 Months of Hell was the reason behind the move, and insisted that her removal was not political.

"What happened is that on January 5, I got a transfer order through email. In the very same order, my counterparts in Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, have also been transferred,” she said.

“I am only a member in the censor committee and there are other members also who see the film. Last month, this film came before the committee and on account of the violence and other issues, the committee decided to give a report to the film that it has to be screened in Mumbai before the revising committee, to be chaired by the chairman," Pratibha had said.

21 Months of Hell

The film that is in the middle of the controversy if a docufiction based on the torture methods used by cops during the Emergency in India. Directed by Yadu Vijayakrishnan, the film re-enacts the experiences of 10 victims of Emergency from Kerala.

Speaking to TNM, the director earlier alleged that he was not even given the option of cutting scenes that the panel found objectionable, before his film was rejected.

Read: 'They simply rejected my film': Censor Board blocks Malayalam documentary on Emergency