Indian Censor Board – A Quasi-Judicial Statutory Body – But, does it behave like one?

Anonymous Contributor, SpeakingThreads

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This brief write-up is provided anonymously to the SpeakingThreads with a question for its readers that the Indian Censor Board which does certification of Indian movies and films is a quasi-judicial body but does it behave like one? And whether its functionaries are independent experts or represent a political thought process? How transparent and accountable is the functioning of the Censor Board?

This little research note basically reproduces some provisions, which go to demonstrate the composition and process of appointment of the functionaries of the Indian Censor Board.

This question is relevant in light of quite frequent and repeated controversies surrounding the certification of films in India. The article is not a very comprehensive research as it does not cover the aspect of the fundamental legal right of freedom of expression guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, which is the mother of all laws. Nevertheless, we invite all our readers to chip in their views on the question above raised.

Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) is a Statutory body under Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, regulating the public exhibition of films under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act 1952.

Films can be publicly exhibited in India only after they have been certified by the Central Board of Film Certification.

The Board, consists of non-official members and a Chairman (all of whom are appointed by Central Government) and functions with headquarters at Mumbai. It has nine Regional offices, one each at Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Thiruvananthapuram, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Cuttack and Guwahati. The Regional Offices are assisted in the examination of films by Advisory Panels. The members of the panels are nominated by Central Government by drawing people from different walks of life for a period of 2 years.

The Certification process is in accordance with The Cinematograph Act, 1952, The Cinematograph (certification) Rules, 1983, and the guidelines issued by the Central government u/s 5 (B).

In Gajanan .P. Lasure and others v. CBFC, the petitioners were challenging the legality, propriety and validity of the Censorship Certificate issued by the Central Board of Film Certification for public exhibition of the film “Aarakshan”. The Bombay High Court held in this case that the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) is a quasi-judicial body appointed as per the Cinematograph Act 1952 and the rules framed there under. It previews the films solely for the purpose of certification and as per the rules and guidelines contained in the said Act.

Final Film Certification is a quasi-judicial function performed by the Examining Committee members who are selected by Government of India from different strata of society. There has been no precedence as such of involving any statutory body in the film certification process nor is there any statutory provision in the Cinematograph Act for this

Appointment of the members:

The Cinematograph Act, 1952 section 3-
(1) For the purpose of sanctioning films for public exhibition, the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, constitute a Board to be called the 7 [Board of Film Certification] which shall consist of a Chairman and 8 [not less than twelve and not more than twenty-five] other members appointed by the Central Government.
(2) The Chairman of the Board shall receive such salary and allowances as may be determined by the Central Government, and the other members shall receive such allowances or fees for attending the meetings of the Board as may be prescribed.
(3) The other terms and conditions of service of the members of the Board shall be such as may be prescribed.

Advisory panels:

The Cinematograph Act, 1952 section 5 –
(1) For the purpose of enabling the Board to efficiently discharge its functions under this Act, the Central Government may establish at such regional centres as it thinks fit, advisory panels each of which shall consist of such number of persons, being persons qualified in the opinion of the Central Government to judge the effect of films on the public, as the Central Government may think fit to appoint thereto.

Terms of office:

Rule 3 -: Cinematograph (Certification) Rules, 1983
(1) A member of the Board shall hold office during the pleasure of the Central Government.
(2) Subject to the provisions of sub-rule (1), the Chairman shall hold office for a period of three years and shall continue to hold office until his successors is appointed; Provided that pending the appointment of his successor, the Central Government may appoint another person to act as Chairman for a period not exceeding one year.
(3) Subject to the provisions of sub-rule (1), every other member shall hold office for a period not exceeding three years.
(4) A retiring member or a member whose term of office has expired by efflux of time shall be eligible for reappointment.

After the rule 3, the following new rule shall be inserted, namely:- “3A. Representation of women in the board.- The Central Government may take such steps as it thinks fit to appoint women members in the Board so that there is due representation for women.” (as per notification dated 16th November, 1994).