This Article is written by Hia Sharma student of Himachal Pradesh National Law University Shimla.
National Award-winning film-maker Vishal Bhardwaj tweets, “Such a sad day for cinema” – This tweet comes after the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal has been abolished.
Film Certification Appellate Tribunal popularly known as the FCAT was a statutory body that had been set up to hear the cases of appeal by the film-makers against the decisions of the CBFC. CBFC stands for the Central Board of Film Certification; a statutory body that is responsible for the issuance of the certificates to the movies based on their content if they are fit for the public exhibition or not and also as to which type of audience.
ABOLISHMENT OF FILM CERTIFICATION APPELLATE TRIBUNAL
Recently on the 4th of April 2021 by the notification , the Centre by the way of Tribunal Reforms (Rationalization and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021, said that the statutory body has been abolished.
The Tribunal Reforms Bill was introduced before the House of the People or the Lok Sabha but the same could not be taken up into the consideration by them in their last session. Thus, the President promulgated an Ordinance that is Tribunal Reforms (Rationalization and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021 and abolished the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal along with eight other appellate authorities by immediate effect.
The said ordinance also brought an amendment in the Cinematograph Act, 1952 where now the word ‘Tribunal’ has been replaced with the phrase ’High Court’.
Let us understand this in more depth.
THE FILM CERTIFICATION APPELLATE TRIBUNAL
The Film Certification Appellate Tribunal or popularly called the FCAT had been established as a statutory body in the year 1983. A decision was taken to establish such a type of organization or body under the Cinematograph Act, 1952 to hear the cases of appeal if any dispute arises between the film-makers and the Central Board of Film Certification.
CENTRAL BOARD OF FILM CERTIFICATION
Central Board of Film Certification or popularly known as the CBFC is another statutory body which works under the Information and Broadcast Ministry. It serves the function of regulating the public exhibitions of the movies in India. The authority is guided by the provisions of the Cinematograph Act, 1952. No movie can be exhibited before the public until the same obtains the ‘Certificate of Exhibition’ by the Central Board of Film Certification.
Depending on the scenes in the movies, the content the maker wants to exhibit thereof, the type of language being used in the movies by the actors and the actresses, the Central Board of Film Certification broadly provides with four types of certificate-
The U certificate is provided to those kinds of movies which can be exhibited before the public. The movie is a family movie that can be watched by the audience of any age. It generally means Universal Exhibition.
The U/A certificate is given to those movies which also can be viewed by the audience of any age provided that the movies include such story plot or scenes or language that children below the age of twelve years must watch such movies under the guidance of their parents. Thus, these movies are generally for the audience above the age of twelve but children below the age of twelve can also watch such movies but under their parental guidance.
The A certificate is given to those movies which are meant for the adult audiences. This means that the movie is not right for the people below the age of eighteen years and should be shown only to the people above the age of eighteen years.
The S certificate is given to those movies which are meant for the special categories of the audience such as the movie is only meant for the doctors or engineers or to army people for example.
It is not necessary for the Central Board of Film Certification to give the Certificate of Exhibition to each and every movie but it can also deny giving the certificate to a particular movie if the authority feels that the movie is not reasonable enough to be exhibited in the public.
The Central Board of Film Certification also has the authority to cut off certain scenes from the movies which it feels on reasonable grounds that the same should not be publicly exhibited.
SIGNIFICANCE OF FCAT
It is in these cases where the conflict between the film-makers and the Central Board of Film Certification arises. The film-makers can demand that the movie should be given a “U” certificate or “U/A” and so on like this as the case may be against the certificate otherwise. The film maker can also challenge the decision of CBFC of not giving a certificate at all for the public exhibition of the film. The cut of scenes from the movies can also be challenged.
Before the establishment of the Film Certificate Appellate Tribunal, the film-makers had no other option to challenge the decision of the CBFC but to go to the High Court.
However, after the establishment of FCAT the film-makers can appeal here as this body acted as a buffer for the film-makers. The organisation provided quick decisions.
There have been various instances where the film-makers appealed in the FCAT and got the relevant Certificate of Exhibition for their respective films. Some examples could be, the CBFC has refused to issue certificate for ‘Udta Punjab’ but the FCAT said that this is unreasonable and told CBFC to issue the ‘A’ certificate for the film. Similar situation happened with the movie ‘Lipstick under my burkha’ where CBFC refused to issue the certificate but was told to issue the ‘A’ certificate by the FCAT. The movie ‘Bandit Queen’ was made to undergo more than hundred cuts by the CBFC but on appeal by the film-makers the cuts were reduced and the movie was published with the ‘A’ certificate.
This way Film Certification Appellate Tribunal played an important role in deciding what is to be exhibited and what is not to be exhibited.
Film Certification Appellate Tribunal serves as a check between what the government wants to publish and what the aforementioned authority feels should be exhibited in the public though categorizing the movies for different audiences. This is due to the fact that the Central Board Of Film Certification is a government body and can be apparently controlled by the same.
IMPLICATIONS OF ABOLISHMENT OF FILM CERTIFICATION APPELLATE TRIBUNAL
The step to abolish the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal along with many other tribunals came after the Supreme Court order in Madras Bar Association v. Union of India. In November 2020, a two-member bench was directed by the government to constitute the National Tribunals Commission.
The implications of abolishment of the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal are now in case of any dispute between the Central Board of Film Certification and filmmakers, the High Court will be approached. This will lead to an overburden on the judiciary. Imagine a judge or judges watching a movie and then deciding whether the movie is to be published or not.
The elite and influential film makers might have better control and influence than the moderate film makers. The litigation process would lead to a huge amount of costs and time than what used to take place in the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal. We are well aware of the time it takes to be resolved by the court. This will lead to unnecessary delay in grievance redressal of filmmakers.
The abolishment of Film Certification Appellate Tribunal seems to be arbitrary as decision was taken without any consultations with the stakeholders involved with the same.
This move seems to be empowering the hands of the Central Board of Film Certification which will ultimately increase the role of State and government in providing certificates to the film for public exhibition. This seems to be reducing the creative freedom of filmmakers as there is no tribunal like the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal keeps a check on the matter.
In this article, we discussed the FCAT as a body which worked in case of disputes that arose between the filmmakers and the Central Board of Film Certification, a body that is responsible for giving certificate to the films. No movie can be shown to the public without obtaining the certificate from the Central Board of Film Certification. But now that the Certification Appellate Tribunal has been abolished and the cases of dispute will now be directly undertaken by the High Courts. Then, we discussed the implications of the abolishment of the Central Board of Film Certification some of which are a burden on the judiciary and increase in the role of state in controlling what should be published and what should be not.
- Ektaa Malik, Explained: The role, significance of film certification tribunal, now abolished, April 8, 2020, Indian Express. https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/the-role-significance-of-film-certification-tribunal-now-abolished-7263409/
- Madras Bar Association v. Union Of India on 27 November, 2020 Writ Petition (C) No.804 of 2020
- Pradeep Kumar, Abolition of Film Certification Appellate Tribunal leaves film industry puzzled and anxious, April 10, 202, The Hindu. https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/abolition-of-film-certification-appellate-tribunal-leaves-film-industry-puzzled-anxious/article34288969.ece