Court lifts ban on declaring National Film Awards

Jul 31, 2007 IANS

New Delhi, July 31 (IANS) The Delhi High Court Tuesday lifted a ban on the declaration of the 53rd National Film Awards for 2005, which were mired in controversy for two years after a jury member alleged government officials rigged them.

Justice B.D. Ahmed lifted the ban and directed petitioner Shyamli Banerjee Deb, a jury member, to submit her suggestions to the government so that such controversy did not arise in future.

On May 9, the court had stayed the declaration of the awards and directed the government to look into Deb's allegations that the honours were 'fixed' by the authorities.

The court had directed the information and broadcasting ministry not to declare the awards without getting its clearance and had asked the authorities to redress the allegations in the petition.

While Sanjay Leela Bhansali's acclaimed "Black" has been chosen to receive the best film award, Deb found it to be a wrong choice.

Arguing that "Black" is an adaptation of hit English film "The Miracle Worker" (1962), Deb said in the petition filed by Counsel Deepak Prakash that "a film which is an adaptation of a foreign film should not be considered since the awards are meant for only original work."

During the arguments Prakash alleged that two officials of the Directorate of Film Festivals (DFF), Shanker Mohan and Manoj Srivastava, had imposed the names of the awardees on jury board chair B. Sarija Devi during a meeting held at Ashoka Hotel in New Delhi on Aug 12, 2006.

"Those who have close proximity with the DFF officials were up on the bid for the National Awards while a number of promising directors were left out because they did not manage to build up connection with the authorities," said the petition.

"In reality the DFF officials with ulterior motives decided the awards in their chambers and constituted a jury (only as a facade) and they tried to influence the members of the jury."

For example, Tamil films "Anniyan" and "Apaharan" were rejected in the preliminary round, but chosen for the best special effects and best screenplay awards respectively, the petition claimed.

Deb said Rahul Dhokalia should not have been named the best director for "Parzania", about the communal violence in Gujarat in 2002, as the film did not bear his "signature as an author or director".

Deb had already submitted two representations to the ministry expressing her dissent on the selection of the awards, but the authorities did not bother to reply, said Prakash.

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