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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Explained: What govt proposes to change in film certification

The Centre has released the draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021. What does it propose to change, and why is it significant?

Written by Ektaa Malik | New Delhi |
Updated: June 22, 2021 2:02:29 pm
The new draft makes space for the government’s intervention. (Express illustration)

Last week, the Centre released the draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021 to the general public for comments until July 2. The new draft proposes to amend the Cinematograph Act of 1952 with provisions that will give the Centre “revisionary powers” and enable it to “re-examine” films already cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).

A look at what the draft proposes to change:

Revision of certification

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting proposes to add a provision to the Act that will equip the Centre with revisionary powers on account of violation of Section 5B(1) (principles for guidance in certifying films). The current Act, in Section 6, already equips the Centre to call for records of proceedings in relation of a film’s certification. The Ministry explained that the proposed revision “means that the Central Government, if the situation so warranted, has the power to reverse the decision of the Board”.

Currently, because of a judgment by the Karnataka High Court, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in November 2020, the Centre cannot use its revisionary powers on films that have already been granted a certificate by the CBFC.

The new draft makes space for the government’s intervention.

“… It is also proposed in the Draft Bill to add a proviso to sub-section (1) of section 6 to the effect that on receipt of any references by the Central Government in respect of a film certified for public exhibition, on account of violation of Section 5B(1) of the Act, the Central Government may, if it considers it necessary so to do, direct the Chairman of the Board to re-examine the film,” the Ministry said.

Why it is significant

The draft comes shortly after the abolition of the Film Certificate Appellate Tribunal, which was the last point of appeal for filmmakers against the certificate granted to their film. The draft has been criticised by filmmakers such as Adoor Gopalakrishnan, who has termed it a “super censor”.

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Age-based certification

The draft proposes to introduce age-based categorisation and classification. Currently, films are certified into three categories — ‘U’ for unrestricted public exhibition; ‘U/A’ that requires parental guidance for children under 12; and ‘A’ for adult films. The new draft proposes to divide the categories into further age-based groups: U/A 7+, U/A 13+ and U/A 16+. This proposed age classification for films echoes the new IT rules for streaming platforms.

Provision against piracy

The Ministry noted that that at present, there are no enabling provisions to check film piracy in the Cinematograph Act, 1952. The draft proposes to add Section 6AA that will prohibit unauthorised recording. The proposed section states, “notwithstanding any law for the time being in force, no person shall, without the written authorisation of the author, be permitted to use any audio-visual recording device in a place to knowingly make or transmit or attempt to make or transmit or abet the making or transmission of a copy of a film or a part thereof”.

Violation shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term “which shall not be less than three months but which may extend to three years and with a fine which shall not be less than Rs 3 lakh but which may extend to 5 per cent of the audited gross production cost or with both”.

Eternal certificate

The draft proposes to certify films for perpetuity. Currently a certificate issued by the CBFC is valid only for 10 years.

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