The government has solicited public comments on the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021, which will allow for broader age classification, allow the Center to process complaints and seek recertification of a film, and will also penalize piracy.
The changes, for which the Center requested comments by July 2, propose an age rating system similar to that specified in the new intermediate and digital media guidelines notified on February 25. Categories would include U, or universal, U / A 7+, U / A 13+, and U / A 16+, in addition to an A rating for adult content.
At present, under the Film Act of 1952, there are only three categories of film certification: unrestricted public exhibition or U, parental guidance required for children under 12 years old or U / A and adult movies.
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If the proposed changes are approved, the government will also have the power to restrict cinematic content on the basis of Indian sovereignty and integrity, state security, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality or in matters of contempt of court, defamation or incitement to any offense. “The central government with regard to a film certified for public exploitation, due to the violation of section 5B (1) of the law, the central government may, if it considers it necessary, order the president council to review the film, ”the government said in a June 18 statement.
The government also highlighted the lack of provisions to control piracy of films. “At present, there are no enabling provisions to control film piracy in the Cinematograph Act, 1952, making it necessary to have a provision in law to control film piracy.” , indicates the press release. The new provisions include a prison sentence of up to three years for piracy and a fine of at least ₹3 lakh. There is also a tendency to grant film certificates in perpetuity, whereas the current system only allows one film to be certified for 10 years.
According to Prasanth Sugathan of the Software Freedom Law Center, the granting of review powers to the government goes against the law enacted by the Supreme Court in Union of India v KM Shankarappa. “This effectively gives the Union government supervisory power over the Council as well as the Tribunal,” he said. “This will lead to a situation where a few protesting people can practically block the exposure of any movie. It will be a rowdy veto case that will prevail and, in a country where there will always be sections easily offended by any work of art, it will have dangerous repercussions on freedom of expression.
Film critic Gautam Chintamani said: “The proposed age-appropriate certification is one of the key elements of the new film law. This is an indispensable change, which has been suggested several times in the past, including by the committee headed by Shyam Benegal. In addition to the certification aspect, its compliance must be ensured.
The abolition of the Film Certification Appeal Tribunal (FCAT) by the Indian government last week – under the Court Reform Order, 2021 – has drawn criticism from some. As this was the penultimate forum for filmmakers to appeal against edits suggested by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), its absence now means the filmmaker would have to go to the High Court.
In my opinion, an updated cinematograph law where definitions such as obscenity, anti-national, etc. are clearly defined so that there is no misunderstanding around the interpretation of the nature and scope of these words and age-appropriate certification could lead CBFC to have a clearer and more contemporary understanding of the certification.