Filmmakers, academics and civil society concerned about Cinematograph Amendment Bill

A GROUP of filmmakers, academics, researchers, programmers, students, technicians, lawyers and civil society have raised concerns at the proposed “Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021” which among other things, seeks to confer power on the Central Government to revoke a Film Censor Certificate.

As many as 1430 persons including eminent members of the film community like Vijay Krishna Acharya, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar, Vetri Maaran, Anurag Kashyap, Nandita Das, Hansal Mehta, Shabana Azmi and others, have endorsed the comments prepared by filmmaker Shilpi Gulati, Academic Bhargav Rani, filmmaker Prateek Vats and lawyers Sahana Manjesh and Mani Chander.

In their appeal to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the signatories have highlighted the following:

  • The Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021 clearly defines the role of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) as a body that certifies film content for public exhibition and not as a censoring body.
  • Amendments giving powers to the Central Government to revoke a film certificate must be dropped. 
  •  Film piracy poses real challenges to filmmakers, the proposed amendments do not address this concern effectively merely by introducing a penal provision. If introduced, sufficient exceptions on fair use, de minimis use and derivative work specific to films must be created. Systemic solutions to genuinely counter-piracy must be introduced.
  • The Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) be reinstated, as it enables affordable and accessible remedies to filmmakers
  • 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 Central Government on June 18 released a draft bill on a proposed amendment to the existing Cinematograph Act, 1952. The draft amendment bill for the same is open for public comments till July 2. 

However, many of the changes proposed by the bill are being seen as problematic. Filmmakers have alleged that the proposed Amendment undermines the sovereignty of the Censor Board as it will effectively give the Central Government supreme power over cinema exhibition in the country potentially endangering freedom of expression and democratic dissent.

“This will also render filmmakers powerless at the hands of the state and vulnerable to threats, vandalism, and intimidation of mob censors”, the signatories say. 

The proposal to amend the Cinematograph Act comes two months after the Centre dissolved the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) in April 2021.

Also Read: Why Government must take back the Draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2021