New Delhi, April 18: The Supreme Court has sought a response on a plea seeking guidelines for pre-censorship of films after the notices were issued to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).A bench headed by Justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan passed an order after hearing on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by actor-filmmaker Amol Palekar, seeking the court’s intervention in revamping the Central Board of Film Certification (CFBC). The bench passed an order saying that the censor board's role should be confined to certifying films.
The petition filed by actor-filmmaker Amol Palekar stated that pre-censorship of films is a violation of the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression of both film-makers and the public.
The plea sought to “declare provision that empowers CBFC to carry out excisions or modifications in the film as it thinks necessary before sanctioning the film for public exhibition as unconstitutional.”
“The petitioner is challenging the provisions of the Cinematograph Act, 1952 and the Cinematograph (Certification) Rules, 1983 which in turn imposes pre-censorship on the freedom of speech and expression of the artistes as well as the audience,” the petition contended. “The petitioner is aggrieved by the provisions granting the power of ordering cuts, deletions, alterations in a film along with the abuse of power while exercising the powers given by the said Act and Rules while certifying and/or denying certification to any applicant film,” it said. The I&B Ministry had announced the introduction of a new Cinematograph Act to redraw CBFC’s role on the basis of reports submitted by a committee headed by veteran actor Shyam Benegal in April 2016. The plea also sought implementation of the report.
“Rules have to change for the present day when the Internet and social media dominate. When content on television and the Internet is free of censorship, the same content being altered, cut or deleted before being shown in a cinema hall is an attack on our right to equality,” the petition said. To this “Today modern technology makes dissemination of information available in real time through a variety of media, many of which are either not regulated or if regulated, not subjected to pre-censorship,” Palekar said.
According to a written reply submitted in the Rajya Sabha by the Minister of State for I&B Rajyavardhan Rathore, the CBFC denied certification to as many as 77 films in 2015-16, up 64% from the previous year. “We want to revisit current CBFC system,” I&B minister Venkaiah Naidu had said earlier during the launch of the online certification system.
Benegal panel welcomed the plea. “The government set up our committee and we submitted the report in two parts last year but haven’t heard what the government thinks about them. They have to respond and say either yes or no (to the recommendations). So I hope this (petition) will at least help them make up their mind.”