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Filmmakers circulate petition against changes to increase censorship of films

The petition also sought the reinstatement of the Film Certificate Appellate Tribunal which was abolished by the government on April 4.

Over 1,400 people in the film industry have circulated a petition against proposed changes to the Cinematograph Act that could increase censorship of films in India. The draft Cinematograph Amendment Bill, 2021 would essentially give the government powers to send a certified film back to the Central Board of Film Certification for the latter to revise its decision if complaints are received against a film.

“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,” the petition says. The Indian Express reports that the petition’s signatories include Anurag Kashyap, Shabana Azmi, and Vikramaditya Motwane. It was drafted by filmmakers Prateek Vats and Shilpi Gulati.

“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 petitioners urged. The petition also asked the government to reinstate the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal, which was abolished by the government supposedly as a part of tribunal reform efforts; this leaves filmmakers aggrieved by a CBFC decision with no option but to go to a High Court for relief.

CBFC should only certify: Petition

The petition argues that:

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  • The CBFC should only certify films without censoring them.
  • Existing laws to prevent piracy are sufficient and no new provisions for the purpose are necessary.
  • Exceptions for fair use of copyrighted content must be outlined.
  • The FCAT should be reinstated.
  • “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 petition points out that the government ignored the Shyam Benegal committee report‘s main recommendation that the CBFC should not censor films and only certify them. Based on a Supreme Court judgement, the petition also argued that “It is an established principle of constitutional law that the legislature cannot reverse a judicial decision unless the very basis of the infirmity or illegality pointed out by the court has been removed.” (emphasis theirs)

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