Explained: Proposed amendments to Cinematograph Act, which will allow re-certification of films, penalisation of piracy

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has asked the general public to send their comments on the draft Bill by 2 July.

FP Staff June 21, 2021 17:53:17 IST
Explained: Proposed amendments to Cinematograph Act, which will allow re-certification of films, penalisation of piracy

Representational image. Wikimedia Commons

The Centre on Friday, 18 June, sought public comments on the draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021 by 2 July. The amendments propose penalising film piracy with a jail term and fine, introducing age-based certification, and empowering the Central Government to order re-certification of an already certified film, following receipt of complaints.

"The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting proposes to introduce the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2021 which will make the process of sanctioning of films for exhibition more effective, in tune with the changing times and curb the menace of piracy," according to a ministry notification.

Why the proposed amendment?

According to The Wire, while the ministry says that the original Cinematograph Act empowered the Central Government, “if the situation so warranted … to reverse the decision” of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) in certifying a particular film, the Centre should be allowed to order re-certification for a film, in turn adding another layer of censorship.

The ministry said that complaints are sometimes received against films that allude to violation of Section 5B (1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952, after a film is certified.

The principles of certification provided in Section 5B of the Cinematograph Act, 1952, mandate that clearance for public exhibition will not be granted if "any film or part of it is against the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, affects friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to any offence", states Telegraph India.

The ministry has now proposed granting 'revisional powers' to the government on account of violation of Section 5B (1) of the act. While doing so, it invoked Article 19 (2) of the Constitution which imposes reasonable restrictions upon the freedom of speech and expression of citizens. Hence, if the central government deems it necessary, it can direct the Chairman of the CBFC to re-examine a film that has been certified for public release, reports India Today.

Recent abolishment of the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal

Ahead of restoring the Union government’s revisional powers, the I&B ministry had in April abolished the FCAT.

The Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), the statutory body constituted to hear appeals of filmmakers aggrieved by Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) orders, was dissolved earlier last month. This indicates that, from now on, producers have to directly approach high courts to address their grievances.

FCAT was established in 1983 under the Cinematograph Act, 1952. Among the various remedies available on appeal to FCAT included appeal against the certification order of the CBFC; its refusal to certify a movie; or the modifications suggested by the board.

Barring a couple of exceptions like Vishal Bhardwaj, Guneet Monga and Hansal Mehta, there was hardly any protest from the film industry over the dissolution of the tribunal.

Also read on Firstpost: Overburdened High Courts, delayed film releases: An explainer on what abolition of FCAT may lead to

Age-based certifications

The Cinematograph Act, 1952, provides film certification under three categories—unrestricted public exhibition (U), parental guidance required for children under 12 (U/A), and adult films (A).

According to the proposed Bill, the government seeks a three-part classification of the UA category: aged 7+, 13+ and 16+. The other U and A categories will continue, reports The Hindu.

Lack of provisions to check on film piracy

Among the proposed changes, the draft Bill will penalise film piracy with a jail term and fine. “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," the government said.

Hence, the draft Bill proposes to insert section 6AA which prohibits unauthorised recording, illegal transmission of a copy of the film, and use of any audio-visual recording device to record without the written authorisation of the author.

To tackle the menace of film piracy, the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on 12 February, 2019 after getting Cabinet approval on 6 February, 2019, wherein the insertion of a new section 6AA and a new sub-section (1A) in Section 7 of the Act was proposed, a press release stated.

The Standing Committee on Information Technology (2019-20) examined the Bill and made recommendations, on the basis of which relevant revisions have been made.

According to the LiveMint, the amended rules said any person found in violation of section 6AA shall be punishable, with imprisonment for a term, which shall not be less than three months but which may extend to three years and with a fine which shall not be less than Rs 3 lakh but which may extend to 5 percent of the audited gross production cost or with both.

What comes next

In 2013, an expert committee was set up under the chairmanship of Justice (retired) Mukul Mudgal to examine the issues of certification under the Cinematograph Act, 1952. Another committee of experts was constituted under the chairmanship of filmmaker Shyam Benegal in 2016 to chalk out broad guidelines for certification within the ambit of the Cinematograph Act and Rules.

The Ministry said that the recommendations made by both the Committees of Experts had been examined and efforts have been made to consider all the relevant issues in consultation with various stakeholders.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has asked the general public to send their comments on the draft Bill by 2 July.

With inputs from Press Trust of India

Updated Date:

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