House panel grills Ministry on “super censorship” clause

Shashi Tharoor  

The Standing Committee on Information and Technology headed by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, at a meeting on Tuesday, grilled the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on the “super censorship” clause introduced in the draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021.

The committee members, according to sources, asked the Ministry to explain the “reasons” and “motivation” for introducing the provision which allows the government to order recertification for a film already certified by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). This was the first meeting of the Parliamentary Panel on the bill.

The Ministry officials, sources said, were at pains to explain. “They claimed that the bill has been misunderstood and that the Ministry itself will have no powers to censor any film. The bill only allows the Ministry to return the film for recertification,” one of the members said on condition of anonymity. Ministry officials also said that the clause would only be invoked if the content of a film impinged on security and integrity of the nation.

Not satisfied with the explanation, the members asked why, when there were existing penal provisions to deal with such a situation, did the Ministry felt it necessary to incorporate this in the bill. “If any person or group feels that a film or part of it hurts their sentiment or imperils the country, they can go to court. Our basic question was why should this power to adjudicate be vested with a bureaucrat,” another member said.

The members, sources said, also pointed to the Supreme Court order passed in 2000 that the government could not exercise revisional powers on films already certified by the CBFC.

The bill was placed in the public domain till July 2 inviting comments. The members also asked the I&B officials to explain how many comments were in support of the bill and how many were opposed. The Ministry officials informed the committee that it was a matter of record and the details would be shared with the panel.

Filmmakers across the country have slammed the bill, with veteran filmmaker Adoor Gopalkrishnan calling it an attempt by the government to bring in “super censorship”. Filmmakers have argued that various groups or individuals often object to a film just before the release, but after the certification process. With the implementation of the proposed new rules, films could be held up longer for re-certification based on random objections, even if it is already certified by the CBFC.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 11:05:49 AM |

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