Film Censorship in India

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Censorship is India is governed by the Cinematograph Act 1952 and the Cinematograph (Certification) Rules 1983. The Act lays down the guidelines to be followed for certifying films and also lays down provisions relating to constitution and functioning of the ‘Censor Board’ or the Central Board of Film Certification, CBFC, (formerly known as the Central Board of Film Censors).

In the beginning there were only two categories of certificates “U” (Universal exhibition) and “A” (restricted to adult audiences), but in June 1983 two other categories were added “UA” (unrestricted public exhibition subject to parental guidance for children under the age of 12) and “S” (public exhibition restricted to specialised audiences such as doctors). The certification rules apply equally to foreign films imported into India, dubbed films and video films. However, these rules are not applicable to films made specifically for Doordarshan, since the latter has its own system of examining such films. While the work of certification of films is a central subject, the enforcement of censorship provisions lies with the states.

The Central Board of Film Certification set up in 1950 is a regulatory body functioning under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Its headquarters are at Mumbai and it has regional offices in New Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Cuttack, Thiruvananthapuram and Guwahati. The exhibition of films is not permitted unless they are certified by the Censor Board.

The organisational structure of the CBFC includes a chairman and members, appointed for a term of three years or till such time as the Government may direct. The members are selected from amongst the eminent persons from different walks of life. The CBFC is assisted by an Advisory Panel in its regional offices, which are headed by Regional Officers. The CBFC has a two-tier structure comprising of Examining and Revising Committees with a view to providing a fair system to the applicants, especially if there are disagreements amongst the members. The current Chairman of the Censor Board is Sharmila Tagore.

A Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) has also been constituted under section 5D of the 1952 Act for hearing appeals against the orders of the CBFC. Noted lawyer Lalit Bhasin is the current Chairperson of the Tribunal.


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