The government has sought opinions regarding the recently proposed amendments to the Cinematograph Act.
Drop recertification idea, reinstate FCAT: Filmmakers, technicians, academicians to I&B ministry
Mumbai - 29 Jun 2021 22:02 IST
Updated : 30 Jun 2021 12:09 IST
A group of filmmakers, technicians and academicians have written to the Union ministry of information & broadcasting, suggesting that the government drop the idea of granting itself powers to revoke certification, and reinstate the Film and Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT). The ministry has sought opinions regarding the recently proposed amendments to the Cinematograph Act.
Describing the nature of the role of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), the letter stated, "In the last 12 years, there have been two committees — under justice Mukul Mudgal and veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal — that have made progressive recommendations to upgrade the certification process of our country and bring it in line with the changing attitudes, needs and demands of the 21st century. However, the much-needed overhaul of the entire approach to censorship has not taken place. Instead of devising a cohesive strategy, governments so far have functioned in a piecemeal fashion that has failed to conclusively arrive at a policy that can be empowering for both the film fraternity and audiences."
The letter further suggested the non-implementation of the idea of the Central government retaining rights to revoke the certification of a film on contentious grounds. This proposal has been criticized by several filmmakers including Shyam Benegal, Vetrimaaran and Goutam Ghose.
The letter also stated that the amendments should clearly define the scope of the Cinematograph Act in terms of 'public exhibition' bringing under its ambit 'only commercial films with substantive capital investment and revenue models tied to theatrical exhibitions'.
While the filmmakers backed the government's intention to rein in piracy, they wrote, "We welcome the move to address piracy-related concerns but suggest that given that existing law penalises piracy, there is no need to introduce further penal provisions. If introduced, the provision must be worded in such a way as to avoid misuse. The punishment section must provide guidelines on the extent of punishment that can be imposed under different circumstances. Sufficient exceptions on fair use, de minimis use and derivative work specific to films must be crafted. Further, the offence must be made non-cognizable and bailable. We further urge the ministry to evolve creative and effective means of tackling piracy in a systematic manner and not be limited to introducing a penal provision."
The following are the suggestions have been listed in the letter:
1. The Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021 must clearly define the role of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) as a body that certifies film content for public exhibition and not as a censoring body.
2. We recommend that the amendments giving powers to the Central government to revoke a film certificate must be dropped. We agree with the spirit of the Supreme Court decision which held that this would violate the separation of powers in our democracy.
3. While we agree that film piracy poses real challenges to filmmakers, the proposed amendments do not address this concern effectively merely by introducing a penal provision. If introduced, sufficient exceptions on fair use, de minimis use and derivative work specific to films must be created. Systemic solutions to genuinely counter piracy must be introduced.
4. We recommend that the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) be reinstated, as it enables affordable and accessible remedies to filmmakers.
5. The Cinematograph Act must be amended to include a clear definition of ‘public’ exhibition and bring under its purview only commercial films with substantive capital investment and revenue models tied to theatrical exhibitions.
The Union government, on 18 June, had sought public opinion from the industry regarding the proposed amendments which sought to grant 'revisionary' powers to the government with reference to section 5B(1) of the Cinematograph Act. Section 5B (1) defines that, "A film shall not be certified for public exhibition if, in the opinion of the authority competent to grant the certificate, the film or any part of it is against the interests of 3 [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 any offence.'