Filmmakers see a ‘super censor’ in Cinematograph Amendment Bill

Adoor Gopalakrishnan. File   | Photo Credit: S. Mahinsha

The draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021 put out by the Union Government on Friday, seeking public comments, has kicked up a storm with filmmakers criticising a provision which allows the Government to order re-certification for a film already certified by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). The new provision is now being seen as the coming into force of a ‘super censor’, adding one more layer of censorship to the already existing process.

Coming two months after the Government decided to dissolve the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), a body which used to hear appeals of filmmakers aggrieved by CBFC orders, the move could be a further curb on freedom of expression, opine filmmakers. Speaking to The Hindu, filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan questioned why an all powerful Government should be scared of filmmakers.

“The dissolving of the appellate tribunal itself was an undemocratic decision, taken without any consultation. Even at present, the filmmakers have not much say in the certification process, with the censor officers implementing the will of the Government. The Supreme Court had earlier said that the Government has no right to demand re-censorship of a film which has already been censored. Why are they so insecure and scared as to bring back something the Court has said no to? We are not an autocracy. Every citizen has a right to criticise the policies of the Government in power,” said Mr. Gopalakrishnan.

Filmmaker Kamal, who heads the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy, said that the extra censorship is being implemented at a time when there has been a long-time demand for doing away with the current censorship process as such.

“In this era of social media and OTT platforms, this old censorship regime brought in during the British era and reshaped somewhat after independence, is itself an outdated concept. The appellate tribunal was a kind of relief to filmmakers, to object to orders issued by the CBFC and reason with sensible appellate members, who often cleared films and reduced the number of cuts. These latest moves point towards an attempt to ensure that no films which criticise the reigning ideology should be made or released. Now, any individual or organisation can come up with an objection to a film, and the Government can order for re-censoring, creating further trouble for filmmakers and producers,” said Mr. Kamal.

The draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021 acknowledges the existing Supreme Court order that the Government cannot exercise revisional powers on films already certified by the CBFC. It further says that “sometimes complaints are received against a film that allude to violation of Section 5B(1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952 after a film is certified”, on which the Government now has no powers of intervention.

The newly added clause reads - “Since the provisions of Section 5B(1) are derived from Article 19(2) of the Constitution (reasonable restrictions on freedom of speech) and are non-negotiable, 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”.

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 | Aug 5, 2021 2:47:24 PM |

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