Context:

  • Freedom of expression has become the need of the hour in the context of Indian cinema.

CBFC: Key points:

  • The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), often referred to as the Censor Board, is a statutory censorship and classification body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.
  • The Board consist of 25 other non-official members and a Chairperson, appointed byCentral Government.
  • Pahlaj Nihalani is now the 27th Chairperson after the Board’s establishment.
  • The Board functions with its headquarters at Mumbai.
  • It has nine Regional offices each at Bengaluru, Chennai, Cuttack, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi, Thiruvananthapuram.
  • Films are certified under 4 categories:
    • “U” (unrestricted public exhibition) and “A” (restricted to adult audiences).
    • Two more categories were added in June 1988, “U/A” (unrestricted public exhibition subject to parental guidance for children below the age of twelve) and “S” (restricted to specialized audiences such as doctors or scientists).

Primary objective:

  • It board needs to regulate the public exhibition of films under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act 1952.
  • Films can be publicly exhibited in India only after they are certified by the Board, including films shown on television.

Current scenario: Government initiatives:

  • The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) on March 27th, 2017, launched an online certification system for films through which producers have to submit their application digitally along with the film script to the website.
  • Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu added that the government is looking to redraw the role of CBFC and will soon be revisiting the system on the basis of recommendations

Objective:

  • Under the new process, the status of each application (filed by film producers) will be visible online in the dashboard of the producer/concerned CBFC official.
  • The complete automation of the film certification process will enable good governance,making the entire process transparent and efficient.
  • Only through technological upgrade can the CBFC handle the 1,500-2,000 applications it receives every year, which minimize the need of human interface or curb corruption to a great extend.

Fund:

  • For the year 2017-18, the government has set aside a total of Rs207 crore to be spent on the film sector.
  • This will include dissemination of film content, infrastructure development, development of National Museum of Indian Cinema among other projects.

Loss of freedom of expression: The banning of the films brings us to the question of freedom of speech and expression. 

  • The preamble in the Indian constitution states ‘liberty of thought and expression’.
  • Article 19(1) fulfills the right to freedom of speech and expression under which are included a variety of freedoms both implicitly and explicitly.
  • However, the freedoms constitutionally granted are not absolute but are qualified and can be restricted by the government in the interest of public order, morality, health and other provisions.
  • Recent experience suggest that the CBFC does not always see itself as a certifying authority , but rather plays the role of censorship.
  • The Bombay High Court had to remind the CBFC that certification is its primary role and that its power to order changes and cuts must be exercised in accordance with constitutional principles.
  • These instances demonstrate that challenges to freedom come from the
  • The battle for free expression is having to be fought so often these days.

Consequences:

  • Empowers the state to restrain free flow of information.
  • Restricts the creativity of the film makers and actors which straight forward violates the rights & freedoms of the film producer and the film viewers.
  • When films are banned on the basis of sheer speculation of the state machineries. It exposes state as a patriarchal body considering citizen as well as society as vulnerable.
  • If a film is banned to please one social group, it is likely that other social communities would ask for the same in future which results in mob violence or mob protests.

Suggestion:

  • While there maybe constitutionally valid cases for banning the film – such as those which are obscene, threat to public order etc, CBFC should respond to changing times; it needs to be more liberal and less dogmatic.
  • If an unlawful means is adopted to stop screening of films,
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