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Cut and thrust before screening

What is the so-called Censor Board, and what does it do?

Written by Raghvendra Rao |
Updated: January 21, 2015 9:00:53 am

What is the idea behind the Censor Board?

The Central Board of Film Certification, popularly known as “Censor Board”, is a statutory body under the I&B Ministry, which regulates the public exhibition of films. The CBFC’s vision is to “ensure good and healthy entertainment in accordance with the provisions of the Cinematograph Act, 1952, and Cinematograph (Certification) Rules, 1983”. Its mission is “to ensure healthy entertainment, recreation and education to the public”.

Under what categories are films certified?

Films are certified under one of four categories: ‘U’ (Unrestricted), ‘UA’ (Unrestricted, but with caution that parental discretion is required for children under age 12), ‘A’ (Adult) and ‘S’ (Only for a special class of persons).

Who is part of the CBFC?

The Board is headed by a chairperson, and has between 12 and 25 non-official members. All are appointed by the central government for a tenure of three years. Members of the Board are eminent persons in different walks of life, such as the social sciences, law, education, arts or films, and must represent a cross-section of society.

Do these members certify or censor films?

No. That is done by one of the nine regional offices of the Board. These offices are in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Thiruvananthapuram, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Cuttack and Guwahati. Their jurisdictions are decided by the language and origin of the film. The biggest regional office is in Mumbai, which examines the largest number of films, including most Bollywood films. The regional offices are assisted in the examination of films by advisory panels, whose members are nominated to two-year terms by the Centre from among people belonging to various walks of life.

How does certification happen?

Once a film is submitted to the regional officer at the relevant regional centre, and after all relevant material, fees, etc, have been received, the regional officer forms an examining committee to view the film. Many films are cleared — with or without deletions or modifications — at this stage itself. In case an applicant is not satisfied with the panel’s decision, the film goes to a revising committee. This is where the Board members come in.

What does this committee do?

All members record their verdict, and the committee decides by majority vote. If the chairperson does not agree with the majority view, he/she may direct another revising committee to see the film.

What happens then?

If the final decision includes making cuts to the film, the applicant must do so and re-submit the film. The applicant gets the opportunity to present his views before the examining committee or the revising committee. If the applicant is not satisfied with the CBFC’s order, he/she can go in appeal to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) in Delhi, which is headed by a retired judge.

So why did Leela Samson and others resign?

Samson alleged there was “a whole lot of interference from all sorts of people” in the Board’s functioning. She complained she was “having to manage an organisation whose Board has not met for over nine months as the Ministry had ‘no funds’ to permit the meeting of members”. Board members who resigned in solidarity with Samson alleged that the “advisory panel continues to be filled up with people of questionable credentials appointed directly by the Ministry, without taking the Board’s recommendations into account”, and that “officers from other departments, who have no understanding or experience in cinema, are appointed as officials”.

What does the government say?

The I&B Ministry has described those who resigned as “rebels without a cause”. Minister Arun Jaitley alleged that Samson was a “non-functional chairperson”, and “if meetings are not being convened, it is for those responsible for non-functioning who must blame themselves”.

 

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