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Questioning the “inordinate delay” by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) in granting certificates to films, taking even up to 491 days, a Parliamentary panel wondered whether this is on account of lethargy or a “systematic system of making speed money”.
Taking up the issue of film censorship for the first time, the Public Accounts Committee headed by Congress leader K V Thomas has flagged discrepancies in the process and made a strong pitch for amendments in the Cinematograph Act 1952 and Cinematograph Certification Rules 1983.
CAG Shashikant Sharma, Secretary Information and Broadcasting Ajay Mittal, CBFC Chairman Pahlaj Nihalani, President of Film and Television Producers Guild of India Siddharth Roy Kapoor and the President of the Indian Motion Picture Producers’ Association (IMPPA) have already briefed the panel.
PAC is examining the “working of CBFC” based on a 2016 report of the CAG. “We examined the relevance of the censoring system of films in the present scenario where almost everything is freely being shown on television and social media. Many members were of the view that immediate changes are required in the Act,” Thomas said.
It is learnt that I&B Secretary also concurred with the members’ view that it is an old Act and needs to be amended as technology was not as advanced when the Act or the rules were formulated. Sources said that a number of panel members felt that the Act needed a “re-look”.
The issue has been discussed in the last two meetings of the PAC, which raised questions over the process of conversion of films from Adult (A) to Universal (U) and Universal Adult (UA) categories.
Questioning the delay in issuing certificates to films even after approval of grant of clear certificate by Examining Committee, the panel members repeatedly referred to the CAG report which had scrutinised 175 records between April 1, 2013 and March 31, 2015 and revealed many systemic deficiencies such as unexplained delays in the certification process, altering of order of films for examination by the Committee, conversion of certified films from A to U and UA categories.
The audit had also revealed lack of internal controls within the CBFC for tracking the records of film certification, which carried a risk of duplicate certificates to different individuals not holding copyrights.
The CAG, found that while 57 files jumped the queue, the time taken to issue a certificate in the case of 49 films ranged between 3 days and 491 days. In 31 cases, during 2013-14 and 2014-15, the time taken to certify the films ranged from 75 days to 491 days with an average of 169 days.
This even as Cinematograph Rules prescribe different time limits for various stages of certification, totally to 68 days and all the films are required to be certified on first come, first serve basis.
“I find no tenable reason for not issuing certificate even after clearance by the Examining Committee. Why should the Board wait 491 days to issue a certificate, which is only a formality after clearance by the Examining Committee,” Thomas said, favouring a “discrete investigation” in such cases.