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Film censorship or certification is the end product of the process of previewing of film and it
includes a decision either not to allow a particular film or public viewing or to allow it for
public viewing with certain deletions and / or modifications.
Why is it necessary?
The Supreme Court stated that film censorship becomes necessary because a film motivates through actions and assures a high degree of attention and retention as compared to the printed word. The Cinematograph Act, 1952 provides for the process of certification of films for public viewing.
This constitutes of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
The CBFC has divided itself into Examining and Revising Committees to provide a two-tier jury system for certification of films.
The Certification rules also apply to foreign films imported into India, dubbed films and video films. The certification does not apply to films made specifically for Doordarshan, since Doordarshan programmes have been exempted from the censorship provisions and Doordarshan has its own system of examining such films.
A person desiring to exhibit a film is required to make an application to Board. The film will be there upon examined by the Examining Committee appointed by the Regional Officer to whom the application is delivered in accordance to the Guidelines for Certification of Film for Public Exhibition under S. 5B of the Act.
Examining Committee comprised of Advisory Committee and an Examining Officer Chairman may recommend it to the Revising Committee.
The Cinematograph Act, 1952 also lays down the guidelines to be followed by certifying films.
Initially, there were only two categories of certificate – “U” (unrestricted public exhibition) and “A” (restricted to adult audiences), but two other categories were added in June, 1983 – “UA” (unrestricted public exhibition subject to parental guidance for children below the age of twelve) and “S” (restricted to specialized audiences such as doctors).
The Cinematograph (Certification) Rules promulgated in 1983 and the Guidelines issued from time to time. The Guidelines are issued under section 5B of the Act, which says that “A film shall not be certified for public exhibition, if, in the opinion of the authority competent to grant the certificate, the film or any part of it is against the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the States, friendly relations with foreign State, public order, decency or morality or involves defamation or contempt of court or is likely to incite the commission of any offence”.
Cinematograph Act and ‘compelled speech’ The Act empowers the Central Government to issue directions to licensees permitted to exhibit cinematograph films to exhibit scientific films, films intended for educational purposes, films dealing with current news, documentary or indigenous films as conditions for license.
These may be regarded as a form of „compelled speech” often known as „must carry‟ provision and considered as a reasonable restriction on the right of free speech In Union of India v Motion Pictures Assn. , distributors and exhibitors challenged on compulsory screening of educational movies.
In M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India , 1992, Supreme Court directed that public awareness on environmental issues be generated by directing licensees of cinema halls, touring cinemas and video parlours to exhibit at least 2 slides or messages on environment in each show.
In 1968, the government appointed the G.D Khosla Enquiry Committee on film censorship. The committee was highly critical of the Cinematograph Act. It envisaged an independent and autonomous Board of Film Censors who would act on a Censor Code that it drew itself rather than follow government guidelines
In Feb 2013 following the ban in Tamil Nadu of Kamal Haasan‟s Vishwaroopam despite clearance form CBFC, the Central Govt set up a panel headed by (retired) Justice Mukul Mudgal to review the powers of the Board and suggest amendments with respect to certification and piracy.
A Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) has been constituted under section 5D of the 1952 Act for hearing appeals against any order of the CBFC. This tribunal is based in New Delhi.
The Board consists of a Chairperson and not less than twelve and not more than twenty-five other members appointed by the Central Government. They are appointed for a period not exceeding three years. They are eminent persons from different walks of life such as social sciences, law, education, art, film and so on, thus representing a cross-section of society.