Recently, the Central Government has released the draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021. The new draft proposes to amend the Cinematograph Act of 1952 with provisions that will give the Centre “revisionary powers” and enable it to “re-examine” films already cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting proposes to add a provision to the Act that will equip the Centre with revisionary powers on account of violation of Section 5B(1) (principles for guidance in certifying films).
The current Act, in Section 6, already equips the Centre to call for records of proceedings in relation of a film’s certification. The Ministry explained that the proposed revision “means that the Central Government, if the situation so warranted, has the power to reverse the decision of the Board”.
Currently, because of a judgment by the Karnataka High Court, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in November 2020, the Centre cannot use its revisionary powers on films that have already been granted a certificate by the CBFC. The new draft makes space for the government’s intervention.
The draft comes shortly after the abolition of the Film Certificate Appellate Tribunal, which was the last point of appeal for filmmakers against the certificate granted to their film.
The draft proposes to introduce age-based categorisation and classification. Currently, films are certified into three categories — ‘U’ for unrestricted public exhibition; ‘U/A’ that requires parental guidance for children under 12; and ‘A’ for adult films. The new draft proposes to divide the categories into further age-based groups: U/A 7+, U/A 13+ and U/A 16+. This proposed age classification for films echoes the new IT rules for streaming platforms.
The Ministry noted that that at present, there are no enabling provisions to check film piracy in the Cinematograph Act, 1952. The draft proposes to add Section 6AA that will prohibit unauthorised recording.
The draft proposes to certify films for perpetuity. Currently a certificate issued by the CBFC is valid only for 10 years.
Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) is a statutory body under Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, regulating the public exhibition of films under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act 1952. Films can be publicly exhibited in India only after they have been certified by the Central Board of Film Certification.