Benegal panel on Cinematograph Act proposed MHA review of films
The Centre has clarified that the changes proposed don’t empower it to pass any order on its own.
The Shyam Benegal committee set up by the information and broadcasting ministry in 2016 to review the Cinematograph Act proposed that the Union home ministry should be able to seek re-examination of a film by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), according to a recent note submitted by the I&B ministry to the parliamentary committee on information and technology.
“Sometimes complaints are received against a film that allude to violation of Section 5B(1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952 after a film is certified and provisions of Section 5B(1) are derived from Article 19(2) of the Constitution and are non-negotiable,” the I&B ministry’s background note said, explaining the context for the contentious provision in the Draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2021 that has triggered protests from filmmakers and artists.
According to Section 5B (1), which lays down the principles for guidance of the film certification authority, a film should not get a certificate if it is against the interests of the security of the State, friendly relations with other countries, public order, decency or morality, involves deflation or contempt of court or is likely to incite commission of an offence should not be given a film certification. Article 19 (2) allows reasonable restrictions to be imposed on all fundamental rights, including that of freedom to speech and expression
The Centre has clarified that the changes proposed in the draft bill only empower the Centre to refer a film for re-examination to the CBFC chairman and not pass any order on its own.
In 2000, the Supreme Court upheld a 1990 ruling of the Karnataka high court that struck down the Centre’s revisional powers over CBFC-approved films but gave the government the option to appeal to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT). But FCAT was one of the eight tribunals scrapped in April under the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021.
Prasanth Sugathan from the Software Freedom Law Centre, said: “The problem is that the government is planning to open a route wherein the certificate will be revoked if certain sections are unhappy with the film. What is the purpose of having an independent body...”