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Govt seeks power to direct CBFC to re-examine certified films

The draft Cinematograph Act 2021 also proposes to impose heavy penalties for piracy and to categorize films by age groups.

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Our Correspondent

The government of India has called for public comments on the draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021 which gives it the power to order the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to re-examine a film that has already been certified for public exhibition.

The draft amendment also has provisions to introduce age-based certification and penalize film piracy with a jail term and fine.

Under section 5(B)(1) of the Cinematograph Act 1952, the government has the power to refuse certification to a film if it is against the 'interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or involves defamation or contempt of court or is likely to incite the commission of an offence'.

The notification said, 'Since the provisions of section5(B)(1) are derived from Article 19(2) of the Constitution [reasonable restrictions upon free speech in the interests of public order] and are non-negotiable, it is also proposed in the draft bill to add a proviso to sub-section (1) of section 6 to the effect that on receipt of any references by the central government in respect of a film certified for public exhibition, on account of violation of section 5(B)(1) of the Act, the government may direct the chairman of the board to re-examine the film.'

In November 2000, the Supreme Court had upheld a decision of the Karnataka high court nullifying the central government’s 'revisional powers in respect of films that are already certified' by the CBFC, popularly known as the censor board.

But the Union information and broadcasting ministry argued that the “Supreme Court has also opined that the legislature may, in certain cases, overrule or nullify the judicial or executive decision by enacting an appropriate legislation. In this regard, it is stated that sometimes complaints are received against a film that allude to violation of section 5(B)(1) of the Cinematograph Act 1952 after a film is certified.”

According to the draft, films can be classified according to various age groups, like 7+, 13+ and 16+. The current U/A certification (unrestricted public exhibition subject to parental guidance) may be sub-classified in the age-based categories.

As far as penalization of piracy is concerned, the draft said, '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.'

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