The Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) has been dissolved by the Ministry of Law and Justice with immediate effect, reported Film Information. The statutory body was constituted in 1983 to hear appeals of filmmakers aggrieved by Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) orders and has been instrumental in the release of a number of films.
After this order, the filmmakers distressed by the decision of the CBFC will have to approach the high court directly, instead of the FCAT for the redressal of their grievances. The Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) was introduced in 1983 as a statutory body constituted vide Section 5D of the Cinematograph Act, 1952 (37 of 1952) by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. It had its headquarters in New Delhi.
In the recent past, filmmakers like Alankrita Shrivastava had approached FCAT in 2017, after the CBFC had refused to certify Lipstick Under My Burkha. After FCAT intervened, it ordered CBFC to grant an ‘A’ certificate after suggesting a few edits. Anurag Kashyap also appealed to FCAT in 2016 when the CBFC wouldn’t give Udta Punjab clearance for release. FCAT was yet again instrumental when it cleared the release of Kushan Nandy’s Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui, after a few “voluntary cuts” instead of 48 cuts that CBFC, then led by filmmaker Pahlaj Nihalani, had ordered in the film after giving it an ‘A’ certificate.
Soon after the abolition of FCAT, several film personalities like Hansal Mehta, Vishal Bharadwaj, Guneet Monga, and Richa Chadha took to their social media platforms to criticise the move.
Actor and former CBFC chairperson Sharmila Tagore, who held the post from 2004 to 2011, wondered what led to the decision. “I don’t know what the rationale is, what was the reason for doing this. I don’t want to comment on it at all. But FCAT was a body that was presided over by a judge and they had very eminent members,” she told indianexpress.com, “If a film ran into a problem with the CBFC. For some reason, they thought we were very unreasonable, they could go to this place and they could argue their case. In fact, I wanted them to enhance the role of FCAT because if you remember, there used to be a lot of public interest litigation, like for Jodha Akbar and many other films. One would make a complaint from one city, and then another city. I remember the producers of Jodha Akbar ran from pillar to post. I felt since there was a legal body already present, why can’t that body look into these PILs and then later, the courts are always there. The problem with the court is everything takes a little longer. Producers can’t risk it. For them, even a week’s loss is huge. So, that’s where I was coming from.”
Hansal Mehta took to Twitter to express his disappointment and called the move “arbitrary and restrictive”. He wrote, “Do the high courts have a lot of time to address film certification grievances? How many film producers will have the means to approach the courts? The FCAT discontinuation feels arbitrary and is definitely restrictive. Why this unfortunate timing? Why take this decision at all?”
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Do the high courts have a lot of time to address film certification grievances? How many film producers will have the means to approach the courts? The FCAT discontinuation feels arbitrary and is definitely restrictive. Why this unfortunate timing? Why take this decision at all?
— Hansal Mehta (@mehtahansal) April 7, 2021
Filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj called it a “sad say for cinema”.
Such a sad day for cinema
FILM CERTIFICATION APPELLATE TRIBUNAL ABOLISHED | 6 April, 2021
— Vishal Bhardwaj (@VishalBhardwaj) April 6, 2021
Producer Guneet Monga, whose Haraamkhor was cleared by the FCAT in 2016, questioned the decision as she retweeted Vishal Bhardwaj’s tweet.
How does something like this happen ?
Who decides ? https://t.co/04uXPQx1dW
— Guneet Monga (@guneetm) April 6, 2021
Jai Mehta questioned how the tribunal has been abolished overnight.
— Jai Mehta (@JaiHMehta) April 6, 2021
— TheRichaChadha (@RichaChadha) April 6, 2021