The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has sought public opinion on the draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill which proposes to empower the Centre with re-certifying a film which has already been cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) after complaints by viewers and penalize piracy with a jail term among other provisions. The public can submit their feedback by July 2.
The ministry claims that the drafts has been drawn up to make the certification process “more effective, in tune with the changed times and curb the menace of piracy”.
Filmmakers fear the draft bill when enforced will add an extra layer of ‘super censorship’ to the existing clearance process and curb freedom of expression.
Here’s what the draft Bill proposes:
Re-examining, revising CBFC certification
The draft Bill proposes to give the government revisionary powers in case there is violation of Section 5B(1). A new provision that will added to the legislation will give the Centre powers to reverse the decision of the film certification board.
Under a Karnataka High Court judgment which was upheld by the Supreme Court, the Centre cannot censor a film once the board has given a certificate.
The Bill also proposes to add a provision to sub-section (1) of Section 6 under which the Centre can ask the CBFC chairman to re-examine a film if it gets a complaint on the violation of Section 5B(1).
Jail for piracy
Noting that unauthorized recording of films and release of their pirated prints online causes huge revenue losses both to the film industry and the government, the ministry proposes inserting Section 6AA in the extant legislation. The section will prohibit anyone to make any audio-visual recording of content without the written consent or authorization of the author or to make or transmit or attempt to make or transmit a copy of the film or parts of it.
“In most cases, illegal duplication in cinema halls is the originating point of piracy. At present, there are no enabling provisions to check film piracy in the Cinematograph Act, 1952 making it necessary to have a provision in the Act to check film piracy” said a statement issued by the ministry.
Any violation under the draft law will be punishable with a jail term not less than three months and which may extend to three years and a fine which shall not be less than ₹3 lakh and may extend to 5 per cent of the audited gross production cost or with both.
Film certification based on age
The bill also proposes to classify films according to viewer age under the UA category. While films are currently certified in three categories – U, meaning unrestriction public exhibition; U/A which requires parental guidance for children under 12 years; and A for adult films, the Bill proposes to add the three subcategories of U/A7+, U/A13+ and U/A16+ to the second category.
The draft also proposes a film’s certification from the current validity of 1o years to forever.
What it means for filmmakers?
The government’s draft Bill comes close on the heels of its abolishment of the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), a statutory body which used to hear grievances of filmmakers against CBFC decisions. Producers now will have to directly move the high court to get their grievances addressed.
Filmmakers have describe both the dissolution of the appellate and the proposed bill, alleging that the former was an undemocratic step taken without consulting with the film fraternity.
“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 recensorship 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 criticize the policies of the government in power,” filmmaker Adoor Gopalkrishnan told The Hindu.
A report in The Wire, says the draft bill will not only empower the Centre to force cut films at will, but will encourage more of a political than professional assessment of content.