The Cinematograph Act 1952, apart from including provisions relating to constitution and functioning of the Central Board of Film Certification (known till June 1, 1983 as the Central Board of Film Censors), also lays down the guidelines to be followed for certifying films. Initially, there were only two categories of certificates "U" (Universal exhibition) and "A" (restricted to adult audiences), but two other categories were added in June 1983 "UA" for unrestricted public exhibition subject to parental guidance for children below the age of twelve and "S" films for public exhibition restricted to specialised audiences such as doctors. The 1952 Act has been amended to bring it up-to-date, and the last amendments were made in 1981 and 1984. The present censorship of films is governed by the 1952 Act, the Cinematogragh (Certification) Rules promulgated in 1983 and the guidelines issued from time to time. The guidelines are issued under section 5(B) of the Act.
In keeping with this responsibility, the Central Board of Film Certification was set up in 1950 in Mumbai, with regional offices in Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Thiruvananthapuram, New Delhi, Cuttack and Guwahati. It is a regulatory body functioning under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. No film can be exhibited in India without being certified by the Board. Its reign has always been marred with controversy, especially under its current chairman Asha Parikh. A Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) has also been constituted under section 5D of the 1952 Act for hearing appeals against any order of the CBFC.
While the work of certification of films is a central subject, the states have to enforce these censorship provisions and bring any violations to the notice of the CBFC. The organisational structure of the CBFC is based on the provisions of the 1952 Act and the Cinematograph (Certification) Rules 1983. The Chairman and members are appointed for a term of three years or till such time as the Government may direct. They comprise eminent persons from different walks of life such as social sciences, law, education, art, film and so on, thus representing a cross-section of society. The CBFC is assisted by the Advisory Panel in various regional offices which are headed by Regional Officers. The members of these panels are also representative of a cross-section of society and interests. These members hold office till such time as the Government may direct but not exceeding two years. However, the members can be re-appointed. The CBFC has divided itself into Examining and Revising Committees to provide a two-tier system for certification of films in the event of the applicant or the Chairman himself not being satisfied with the decision of the Examining Committee.
The certification rules also apply to foreign films imported into India, dubbed films and video films. In the case of dubbed films, the Board does not have any fresh censorship for the visuals in general cases. The Certification does not apply to films made specifically for Doordarshan, since Doordarshan has its own system of examining such films.
Noted lawyer Lalit Bhasin is the
current chairperson of the Central Board of Film