CBFC AND CINEMATOGRAPH
Censorship has been a highly debated topic for a long time ever since the inception of visual acts. Thus,
it has been commonly defined as an act or a mechanism that establishes a system of restrictions over
public expression of ideas, opinions, and conceptions. The main objective of censorship is to restore and
control what kind of and values are portrayed amongst the public at large as the portrayal of an idea or
opinion which is inconsistent with the social morals and norms have the capacity to incite violence as
well as the breeding of wrong ideals. The government controls various portals of media via censorship.
The Central Board of Film Certificate (CBFC) executes this very objective of censorship. This article will
also deal with the role of the Cinematograph Act, 1952 and the setting up of CBFC under it. Post India’s
independence in 1947, the new government felt the necessity to retain film censorship. However, few
amendments were made to the Cinematograph Act 1918 in 1949. Two categories of film certification
were created, ‘A’ certificate for restricting viewership to adults and ‘U’ certificate for an unrestricted
exhibition. The 1949 amendment also provisioned for the setting up of a central censorship board
instead of a regional one. In 1951 the Central Board of Film Censor was formed by the Ministry of
Information and broadcasting. Section 5B(2) lays down the principle to be followed by the CBFC while
sanctioning films. The guidelines require the CBFC to ensure that- 1. The medium of film conforms to the
values of the society. 2. Creative freedom or artistic expression shall not be unreasonably curbed. 3. The
certification must be responsive to social change. 4. They must provide clean and healthy entertainment.
5. The film must be cinematical of a decent standard and is of aesthetic value. 6. The CBFT must judge
the film in its entirety and not from a one-track biased perspective.
The proposed amendments ask for three things; 1.) The category U/A will be subdivided based on age
into U/A7+, U/A 13+ and U/A 16+. 2.) Empowering the Union government to direct the CBFC to
reconsider the certificate it has issued to a film if the government feels that it does not conform to the
‘Guiding Principles’ under Section 5B(1). Under the section, CBFC cannot certify media content that goes
against the “interests of the sovereignty and integrity of the State, security of the State, friendly
relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or involves defamation or contempt of
court or is likely to incite the communication of any offence”. 2.) The government has also
recommended adding section 6AA targeting piracy. Accepting the judgements of the standing
committee, they have agreed upon a minimum punishment of 3 months which can be extended up to 3
years. The government also suggested a fine of 3 lakhs but removed the 10 lakh cap. It may now be
extended till 5% of the audited gross production cost or with both. In 2021, the Freedom in the World
report by Freedom House gave India a Civil Liberties Rating of 33/60. India got a 2/4 on every
subcategory—on ‘free and independent India’, on individual’s freedom to practice and express their
religious faith or non-belief in public and private’, and a on ‘academic freedom, and the educational
system’s freedom from extensive political indoctrination. In 2021, the World Press Freedom Index
ranked India at 142 nd out of 180 countries—a drop from India’s 2017 ranking of 133 rd .
The Union government is seeking to have complete control over India’s media content and its
censorship despite the CDFC already having various safeguards in place. Further, the government
demanded a decision be made in 14 days, not providing ample time to deliberate on an issue as
important as media censorship.