The government is likely to strip the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) of its ability to censor films, a power it wielded to much controversy since its present chief Pahlaj Nihalani took reins at the beginning of last year.
The information and broadcasting ministry is preparing a new cinematography act, which could be tabled in Parliament in the next session, that will leave the board only with powers to certify.
The amended act will mandate the board to categorise films on the basis of their content and not seek deletion of scenes or dialogues that are now not considered appropriate for universal viewing, a source in the ministry said on Friday.
The CBFC functions as an autonomous body under the I&B ministry.
Since he took over in January 2015, Nihalani courted several controversies with instructions such as reducing the length of kissing scenes, drawing up a list of blacklisted ‘cuss’ words and suggesting indiscriminate cuts to movies such as Udta Punjab .
With filmmakers and critics accusing the board of impinging on creative liberties, the ministry formed a committee headed by filmmaker Shyam Benegal Committee to suggest modifications to the law.
The panel has proposed newer categories such as U12+, U15+, A and A+ (for extreme violence and sex scenes), which may be accepted when the amendment bill is drawn up.
A senior official in the ministry, who did not want to be named, said the government believes that people must have the right to choose what they want to watch.
“The government does not, nor does it intend to, intervene (in certification),” he said.
He added that reasonable restrictions on free speech, which are applicable to everyone, will have to be followed by filmmakers as well.
Other changes suggested by the Benegal committee include allowing screening of adult-only films in select cinemas, restricting disclaimers on smoking and tobacco consumption to the beginning of movies and denying certification only when the film contravened the laws of the land or posed a threat to national security.