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A Dynamic Review of Censorship in the Indian Context and Current Social Dilemma

Jahanvee Gupta and Arya, Nyayshastram

Introduction

Cinema and censorship board

Cinema, in general, can be termed as the illustrative representation of a story conveying the thoughts and emotions of an individual or community in an engaging manner using music and visuals that excites the audience. The emotions conveyed by cinema can be of romance, thrill, sympathy, etc thus due to the presence of such a vast canvass it is at a state of communicating and impacting public opinion that no other source of communication can match at present. The introduction of cinema was a source of introspection to the masses with its communication of thoughts to such a large section of society and lead to a positive shift of community population, being an open-source to idea representation. Since its inception, it has always been a mirror to the moral and social values of society as a whole, it has always been a platform for the transformation and evolution of society.


Censorship isn't felt one by one, it's invariably a subject matter wherein the forces of community or a bunch are always involved. Censorship reduces the content which might lead to the suppression of speech of expression of single or multiple communities, challenging the basic idea provided in the Indian Constitution i.e., the freedom to speech.


What does censor of the film mean?

CENTRAL BOARD OF FILM CERTIFICATION, which is also popularly known as censor board is the regulatory body of the Indian film-making industry. The board functionally assigns each film to a specific category which is as follows

1- (U) for unrestricted public exhibition

2- (A) for adults only

3- (U/A) for films requiring parental guidance for children under 12 years of age

4- (S) for exhibition to a restricted audience (i.e., doctors)


Every film that is featured in India, no matter of being of an Indian origin or foreign is required to obtain a CBFC Certification before being featured.


The process is controlled by the CBFC (also termed as Censor Board), which has a limit of 25 individuals to 60 individuals. The Act provides for the institution of a Central Board of Film Certification, a regulative body for monitoring the quality of films in India, empowered to issue the certificate to the manufacturers of the Endless supply of the application, the Regional Representative names a Board of Examination comprising of 4 individuals and a post-trial agent, two of whom must be ladies. The board watches the film and reports on potential cancellations and changes. The Regional Representative will affirm him a U, U/A, A, or S dependent on the report of the advisory group individuals. On the off chance that the candidate is miserable, the candidate ought to be given indications of "proposed changes”. Controls take a limit of 68 days from the date of use to give a testament for the submitted content. This incorporates any cuts required and the time it takes to access. This procedure presently has been made accessible online to guarantee more noteworthy straightforwardness. In situations where the candidate is unhappy with the affirmation, they can contact the Revision Committee and present extra objections to the Court of Appeal and in the long run to the Court.


Cinematograph Act, 1952

We have the Cinematograph Act, 1952 to examine the films that fulfill the norms prescribed by the law. As per the provisions of the law, the Board once examining the film or having it examined takes the following steps:

(a) Sanction the film for unrestricted public exhibition;

(b) Sanction the film for public exhibition restricted to adults;

(c) Direct such excisions and modifications within the film before enabling the film to any unrestricted public exhibition or for public exhibition restricted to adults; and

(d) Refuse to sanction the film for public exhibition[1].


Significance of censorship board and its laws in the film industry

In our country, films are considered to be the most significant source of entertainment. But before the public exhibition, the movie has to go through the process of legal censorship through the Censorship Board of Film Certification. It is the known fact that India is a country comprising of different communities with diverse ideologies and any content that is featured across the nation should be filtered for objectionable content such as hatred, scenes harming communal harmony, adult content, etc. but the powers of the CBFC should be held to a certain extent as too much power to a single governing authority may cause harm to the concept of democracy in the nation. The authority shouldn't solely have the power to maim, mutilate, or ban any film but should perform its basic function to provide the grading certification to films. Issues pertaining to these matters should be transferred to Film Certification Tribunal.


The functioning of media and its working pattern certainly relates to its exercise of power within the Constitutional ambit of Article 19(1)(a) making it essential to filter the content before it reaches the masses as the human minds get much more influenced by their audio and visual skills rather than actions such as reading and propagation of any unfit message or thought to the masses may lead to social conflicts, instances of violence or maybe intentional feeding of content to masses leading to public brainwashing, considering all these factors escalating paradigm of thought. The Censor Board functions as the last governing authority before the featuring of any film and thus is burdened with the responsibilities of certifying the films for clean projection or taking a few cuts, edits, and filtering with the intention that the content reaching the population must not be offensive or traumatizing both mentally and socially and would promote peace and harmony across the nation ensuring united democratic state.


Obscenity and Film censorship laws

Obscene can be defined as

“anything offensive to modesty or decency expressing or suggesting unchaste and lustful ideas, in the impure and indecent manner.”

The limitations as per Article -19(2) of the Constitution of India ensure respectability, standard quality, and public morality. This should be properly ensured in the media projections. The general public’s interests will undoubtedly be disturbed if requirements of tolerability and ethical quality are not kept up. So, there were limitations placed on the freedom of free discourse and articulation to efficiently handle the intentional bring down of public ethics. Bollywood is a ground-breaking medium that gives valuable and engaging data on history, progress, the assortment of societies, religions, socio-financial matters, and governmental issues in different territorial dialects. The rise of the decade of the 1990s brought clouds of trouble for the Hindi film industry with allegations of political influence. The CBFC which was originally set up for safeguarding the national and public interest was found breaching its code of conduct and was under the allegation of political involvement and the bad lights of propaganda fluttering, with the rise of Hindu nationalism under the flag of BJP (Bhartiya Janta Party) and the Shiv Sena with the similar ideology. The paradigm was under a great shift. The certain lowering down of bars for profanity in the Indian films offered a higher degree of threat to the country’s social, sexual, and cultural standards, though they offered to protect them (the opposite was the case in this instance). The issues described, if not dealt with immediately, would show irreversible results on the cultural and moral values of the nation.


Case laws on the ground of obscenity as restriction-

In Chandrakant Kalyandas Kakodkar v. State of Maharashtra[2], the Supreme Court observed that notions about obscenity vary from country to country and within the country itself based on morals of society and widely varying moral acceptability. This makes it extremely difficult to define or straitjacket these concepts.


In the case of Ranjit D. Udeshi v. State of Maharashtra[3], the term Obscenity has been defined by the Supreme Court as the quality of material being obscene that is offensive to modesty or decency, fifty and repulsive”. In this case, the Supreme Court had adopted the age-old Hicklin’s test from the famous case R v. Hicklin wherein the court had decided that if any material will be considered as obscene if it tends to deprave or corrupt the people’s mind and their moral standards. It may also be termed as “the most vulnerable constituency test”.[4]


Conclusion

We can conclude that the Censor Board of Indian Film is an independent body but there are certain limitations which should be necessarily be placed: the members of the governing authority of the board are appointed under the influence of the ruling party, therefore it is seen in some cases that content of the film which is meant to be censored is processed under their set of ideologies intended either to benefit them or in a way as not to harm the social image of the ruling government while it might be oppressive or an unjust act to a specific community of people( the social term for it is called running propaganda) and if anything that denies people of their basic right to know the truth about the community or any topic it’s against the idea of democracy.


This brings us to the point that the structure of authority of film censorship is not well efficient in regards to the current dynamics of the country and a fresh set of rules and laws should be enacted to make the whole censoring process more democratic and informative to society and allow the society to be aware of the filtered topics. The reason behind the existence of biased and peculiar censorship culture is the ruling of liberal and radical government which allows a certain level of the obscene part that will have an adverse impact on society today, giving rise to more crimes. The laws of censorship are not in pace with society as with the progression of society, loopholes in the system also started existing which were exploited by the ruling division and aristocrats for their good. Recently, the rise of the OTT platform streaming has also presented a new set of challenges to the system with the growing gap between the laws and society. Thus, to ensure democratic unity in the country and to give people their freedom of speech and thinking, for the sake of democracy, it has been necessary that the CBFC starts functioning independently and in synchronous with the Censorship laws, which time and again should be subjected to amendment according to changing time.

[1] Sumit Mathew, Censorship of films available at http://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-351-censorship-of-films.html (last seen on 01/11/2020) [2] AIR 1970 SC 1390.

[3] AIR 1965 SC 881.

[4] Rahul K. Chopra79, OBSCENITY AND CENSORSHIP IN BOLLYWOOD, available at http://thelegalvoiceofindiaiil.org/obscenity-and-censorship-in-bollywood/ (last seen on 01/11/2020)