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Six film trade bodies jointly oppose Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill

The proposed legislation empowers the Central government to call for the re-certification of an already-certified film in light of complaints.

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Our Correspondent

Six film trade associations on Friday have sent a joint representation to the Union ministry of information and broadcasting in a bid to speak up against a proposed amendment to the Cinematograph Act which empowers the Central government to order the re-certification of an already-certified film.

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The bodies are the Producers Guild of India (PGI), Indian Film and Television Producers Council (IFTPC), Indian Motion Pictures Producers’ Association (IMPPA), Western India Film Producers’ Association (WIFPA), Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) and Indian Film & Television Directors’ Association (IFTDA).

The film trade associations in a statement pointed out their issues with the proposed legislation.

The Cinematograph Act, 1952, mentions three categories under which films must be certified —  U for unrestricted public exhibition, U/A signifying 'parental guidance required for children under 12', or A for adult films. But under the new amendment introduced by the Central government on 18 June, three categories will be sub-divided into age-based categories such as U/A 7+, U/A 13+ and U/A 16+.

The film bodies have pointed out that while the principle of such classification is welcome, it is requested that the criteria for making the same ought to be clear and also be made available in the public domain, "in order for our members and other filmmakers to make informed choices or decisions accordingly".

The producers' bodies added that the proposed amendment stems from the "absence of guidance on how to arrive at the relevant sub-classification, and is therefore prone to arbitrariness".

The producer's bodies also expressed their displeasure at the re-certification powers, appealing to the government to reconsider this amendment while quoting the Supreme Court's judgment in the case of Union of India versus KM Shankarappa (“Shankarappa”) which stated that "once an expert body has considered the impact of the film on the public and has cleared the film, it is no excuse to say that there may be a law and order situation. It is for the state government concerned to see that law and order are maintained. In any democratic society, there are bound to be divergent views. Merely because a small section of the society has a different view, from that as taken by the tribunal, and choose to express their views by unlawful means would be no ground for the executive to review or revise a decision of the tribunal."

The associations said that if the 2021 Amendments were enacted, the legislature would, in effect, be nullifying the Supreme Court's decision.

The representation also objected to the "arbitrary aspect" of the new provision which allows the government to order the re-certification of films on mere "reference".

"The use of the said term is non-judicious, vague, and without any indication of the circumstances in which such a reference can be made, who is entitled to make the reference and how such a person can decide to make it in a circumstance where the film has been certified and not released," the statement read.

Without any clarity as to who would make such "reference" to the Central government, there is scope for "frivolous mischievous" references to be made, it read.

According to the amendment, each reference will have to be considered by the Central government before it decides to direct the chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to re-examine a  film. "This will add to the workload of the CBFC as well as the Central government while giving the power of reference to any and everyone with or without a valid reason," the statement read.
The associations said films are the speech and expression of the creator and can have "multiple interpretations" depending on the lens through which they are viewed.

Diverse views will lead to anyone taking offence over a film, which would only leave the filmmakers absolutely vulnerable, the statement read.

"The right to freedom of expression as guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution not only squarely applies to films, but has also been interpreted to give films a wide berth in view of the importance of films in the cultural advancement of the society...However, the fact that it is possible with the growing diversity in the world, any group of people could find an issue with any film released, leaves the filmmaker/producers exposed," the statement read.

According to the associations, such issues should "not be indulged in every instance" because every individual will view a particular film from a different perspective.

Therefore, if the filmmaker or producer is exposed to a re-certification process even after the certificate has been granted, there will be immense practical difficulty in the distribution of films and there will be a direct impact on the revenues to be generated from a film.

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