Censorship of Films in India
The Centre recently sought public comments on its draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which proposes to bring back its “revisionary powers” over the Central Board of Film Certification. This would empower the Centre to order “re-examination” of an already certified film, following receipt of complaints.
What are important provisions in the draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2021? Why does it raise apprehension in the film industry?
The proposed amendments:
● The existing category U/A will be subdivided based on age into U/A 7+, U/A 13+ and U/A 16+.
● Provision for Recertification: It empowers the Centre to order “re-examination” of an already certified film by CBFC if the government feels that it does not conform to the ‘Guiding Principles’ under Section 5B(1).
➢ Under the section, CBFC cannot certify media content that goes against the “interests of the sovereignty and integrity of the State, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or involves defamation or contempt of court or is likely to incite the commission of any offence”.
● Penalise film piracy: While there are no piracy policies in the Cinematograph Act, 1952, in the amendments the government proposes to include Section 6AA to prohibit unauthorised recording.
Issues with “Revisionary Powers” of central government:
● In November 2000, the Supreme Court had upheld a Karnataka High Court order which struck down the Centre’s “revisional powers in respect of films that are already certified by the Board”.
● All CBFC members, members of the advisory panel, and regional officers are appointed by the Union government. So, there is no need for revisionary power by the central government.
● The Cinematograph Act of 1952 puts into place a rigorous method of certifying filmsfor public consumption- commercial films displayed in cinema halls and other public viewings.
Article 19(2) of the Constitution authorises the government to impose, by law, reasonable restrictions upon the freedom of speech and expression’. Beyond that, it will amount to Censorship of Films.
About Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC)
It is a statutory body under this Ministry for regulation of films for public exhibition, under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act,1952. On Certification of the CBFC, films can be publicly exhibited in India.
The Board consists of non-official members and a Chairman which functions with the Headquarter at Mumbai. The members of panel are nominated and appointed by the Central Government for a period of two years by drawing people from different walks of life.
The films are certified in following four categories:
U – Unrestricted Public Exhibition.
U/A – Unrestricted Public Exhibition but with a word of caution that discretion required for children below 12 years.
A – Restricted to adults.
S - Restricted to any special class of persons.