The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), which has been in the centre of controversies for censoring movies and attempts to muzzle creative freedom of filmmakers, has been censured by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) for inordinate delay in certification and altering the categorization of films.
In its latest report, based on 175 records from April 2013, the CAG found that the time taken to issue certificates for films for distribution ranged between three and 491 days, reinforcing the filmmakers complaints of certification being delayed.
The CBFC is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Films can be screened only after certification by the CBFC.
The CAG also found that rules had been bent by the Board to certify films by jumping the queue. All films are to be certified on first come first serve basis, except when the regional officer uses discretionary power to alter the order of examination of the film. It has to be done based on a written request from the applicant and if there is sufficient ground for an early examination, which has to be recorded.
“In 57 films (32.57 per cent) which jumped the queue, letters from the applicant requesting for special consideration or regional officer’s justification accepting the request were not found on records. A clear U/UA or a Clear A certification was done for 135 films. However, in 49 films (36 per cent) despite completion of certification process, time taken for issue of certificates ranged between 3 and 491 days,” the report says.
The CBFC, under its current chairman Pahlaj Nihalani has stoked controversies for excessively censorship, often suggesting cuts in kissing scenes and dialogues. To revamp the functioning of the CBFC, the ministry had set up a committee under filmmaker Shyam Benegal to suggest changes to the Cinematograph Act, 1953.
On the issue of categorization of films, another sore point with filmmakers, the CAG seems to endorse their concern. It says despite there being no provision in The Cinematograph Act regarding the process of conversion of films from “A” to “UA”/“U”, CBFC converted 172 “A” category certified films into “UA” category films and 166 films of “UA” category to “U” category films during 2012-15 without any supporting law.
The ministry’s explanation that there is no specific provision, which prohibits recertification of films already certified, has not been found tenable by the auditor.
The CAG has also pulled up the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Kolkata (SRFTI), a fully funded autonomous educational institution under the ministry, for failing to introduce various courses as envisaged in its objectives even after 20 years of its establishment.
“Two batches of students were skipped and number of seats remained vacant due to improper planning. SRFTI also did not execute academic activities properly as none of the batch was completed in prescribed time, lesser teaching hours by faculty and instances of gap in evaluation of performance of students were noticed in audit,” the CAG report said.
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