On 18 June 2021, the Centre had proposed The Draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021 and sought public comments on same by 2nd July 2021. The bill has been criticized by 1000s of celebrities. People from film industry have written and signed a letter objecting to the proposed amendment.
The letter with more than 3000 signatories, sent to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry on 9 July 2021. The signatories to the letter include filmmakers, cinematographers, actors, and writers from all over the country, including celebrities from Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada, Assamese, and Bengali cinema. Film collectives like the Ektara Collective and Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) have also signed the letter.
Now, what actually are the amendment which have been proposed and which are being opposed? The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting seeks to amend the Act to provide the Centre revisionary powers. Section 5B1 says, “the Central Government may, if it considers it necessary so to do, direct the Chairman of the Board to re-examine the film.”
The regulations pertaining to certification of films under the ‘unrestricted public exhibition’ category are planned to be changed, according to the ministry, so that the present UA category might be further subdivided into age-based categories.
- Category ‘U’: for unrestricted public exhibition.
- Category ‘U/A’: requires parental guidance for children under 12 years of age.
- ‘U/A’ then is divided into 3 categories U/A 7+, U/A 13+ and U/A 16+, as per the age.
- Category ‘A’: for adult films.
The government also wants to include a measure that makes it illegal to pirate movies. Unauthorized recording is prohibited under section 6AA of the proposed law. Section 6AA says, “Notwithstanding any law for the time being in force, no person shall, without the written authorisation of the author, be permitted to use any audio-visual recording device in a place to knowingly make or transmit or attempt to make or transmit or abet the making or transmission of a copy of a film or a part thereof.”
Law violators will get punished by “imprisonment not be less than three months” which may be extended to 3 years and with a fine “which shall not be less than Rs 3 lakh but which may extend to 5% of the audited gross production cost or with both.”
Earlier, in The Cinematograph Act, 1952 it was written that filmmakers needed to get a certificate from Central Board of Film Certification (Censor Board) to exhibit the film. Section 6 of the same said that the if any film doesn’t comply with conditions of certification the certificate can be quashed and government can ask censor board to review its decision of certification. This was giving excessive powers to the government. Same was said by Supreme Court in 2000 in the judgement of Union of India vs KM Shankarappa. SC said that the section was violating article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution which is Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression. Since this judgement the government doesn’t have power to quash the already given certification for the same.
Now, the government seeks to bring back another level of censorship, the same power, through section 5(b)(1) of the amendment bill to which filmmakers say that this will again give unnecessary powers to center which can be misused.
The letter has also demanded to bring back the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT). The same was abolished by the government in April, 2021 through The Tribunals Ordinance Act, 2021. FCAT, a statutory body which was established for the reason that if CBFC doesn’t give the certificate to the filmmakers or gives but asks to alter certain parts of the film, filmmakers can reach FCAT with their grievances. If directors were dissatisfied with the CBFC’s judgement, the tribunal provided a time-bound option.
The letter says that since FCAT has been abolished filmmakers do not have any option other than reaching high courts, if they have any problem with decision of CBFC. They have to bear all the “legal cost of representation and financial loss due potential delays in film releases until the overburdened judicial system takes up the matter.”
Another point is, that the FCAT was made for the purpose of reviewing films. Now if filmmakers reach high court too, it is not certain that a judge would be interested in watching the entire film and understanding every point to decide if certificate should be given or not.
Another reason for opposition is amendment on provision of piracy. The letter says that the same has potential of getting misused. For example, if someone just uses any film recording for even a fair use or uses it just for jokes or memes can get arrested and the same has not been taken into account. It says, “The Bill should not inadvertently make criminals out of ordinary citizens.” Sometimes filmmakers themselves use small portion of films and this provision can be misused against filmmakers themselves.
Letter says, “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.” While, film piracy creates significant problems for filmmakers, the proposed modifications do not adequately address this concern by simply introducing criminal penalties, according to the paper. The letter suggests, “Systemic solutions to genuinely counter piracy must be introduced.”
In conclusion, A filmmaker cannot live in constant worry that his film may be removed from the screen because someone doesn’t like what they see in it, even after it has been approved for screening. Union government should limit its involvement in Film Industry. There are already enough checks and measures available in the form of criterias for certification. These modified provisions in the proposed are hampering with article 19(1)(A). And this is the basic reason why filmmakers are against the proposed bill.
This article is written by Harmanpreet, Ist year