Centre may amend law so State governments don’t play censor

Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Manish Tewari. File photo

The Centre is considering amendments to the Cinematograph Act in a bid to protect future films from the fate of Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam : facing a State government ban despite clearance by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry is setting up a committee to revisit the law and make it more robust, possibly by giving States a way to appeal against the CBFC’s decisions at an appellate tribunal. Under the current Act, only aggrieved filmmakers unhappy with the certification can use that route.

Tweeting about the need to amend the Act “to ensure implementational integrity” of certification decisions, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said: “Otherwise, each State would be its own censor.”

Recognising that this is the ultimate filmmaker’s nightmare — pleading with separate State governments even after obtaining the CBFC’s nod — the Centre is re-asserting its constitutional authority to certify films.

“Film certification powers are within the exclusive domain of the Central government in terms of the constitutional scheme. It is imperative that the integrity of the constitutional scheme must be upheld,” Mr. Tewari told journalists on Thursday. “Therefore, a view has been taken to re-examine the statutory framework to ensure the optimisation of this mandate.”

Ministry sources say this could be done by opening up the appellate tribunal to State governments unhappy about a CBFC decision. They point out that in the current row over Vishwaroopam , Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa should have approached the Central government if she had bona fide law and order concerns about the film, since Section 5E of the Cinematograph Act gives the Centre over-riding power to suspend or revoke the CBFC’s certification.

The Ministry officials were also very critical of the stance of the Tamil Nadu Advocate General A. Navaneetha Krishnan that the film certification process was not taking place according to the law. “There could be concerns about the robustness of the process, but to cast aspersions or allegations – to speak of a scam – without any evidence to back it up, does not behove the first law officer of any State,” said a senior official who did not wish to be named.

Something wrong with system: Pawar

In another strong reaction from the Central government, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said he was very upset by Kamal Haasan’s statement that he wanted to leave the country. “No Indian should feel he has to leave the country. There is clearly something wrong with the system. There is need for a corrective measure.”

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Printable version | May 10, 2022 3:56:23 pm |